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Juveniles Who Sexually Offend

NCJ Number
James Rokop, Ph.D.
Date Published
March 2013
69 pages
These hand-outs from a structured presentation provide an overview of issues and policies related to juveniles who sexually offend (JwSO).

Issues addressed are the nature of the JwSO problem, the response, associated myths, causal theories, typologies, what differentiates them from other offenders, some characteristics, assessment, treatment, and special JwSO populations. The overview of the problem notes that in the United States, juveniles committed 15 percent of all forcible rapes for which arrestees were reported in 2009, a 58-percent decrease from its peak in 1991. In 2010, juveniles were arrested for 14.4 percent of forcible rapes, and 18.1 percent of all sex offenses. The response to juvenile sex offenses has included tougher sentences, out-of-home placement, sex offender registration, and post-incarceration civil commitment. Criticisms of this increasingly severe, punitive responses to juvenile sex offending have focused on the alienation of these offenders from normative society, which further impedes their positive social development. In particular, the Sex Offender Registration Notification Act (SORNA) will inhibit parental willingness to report or seek help for children's sexual behavioral problems. A congressional reassessment of SORNA's overall treatment of juveniles is recommended. California legislation that impacts juveniles' registration as sex offenders is outlined. Data are also provided on juvenile sexual recidivism compared to general recidivism; a 2004 study (Hendriks and Bijleveld) found 60-percent general recidivism for juvenile offenses and 10 percent for sexual reoffending. Characteristics are noted for high-risk juvenile sex offenders who are more likely to sexually offend as adults. The heterogeneity of juvenile sex offenders is noted, and causal theories of juvenile sex offending are listed (evolutionary, behavioral, social learning, personality, meta-theoretical, and biological). 11 tables