Effective Treatment for Adolescent Sex Offenders

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Who are adolescent sex offenders? In its basic and most simple form adolescent sex offenders could be defined as any juvenile male or female, approximately between the ages of 12 and 17 years of age who commit any sexual act with another person, unlawfully against that persons will, regardless of age limit. Research has suggested that adolescent sexual offenders are also embedded in multiple systems (family, peer, school) in which dysfunctional transactions are rather evident. There is also a general consensus that adolescent sexual offenders have difficulty maintaining close interpersonal relations and are isolated from their peers. Finally, a relatively high percentage of adolescent sexual offenders evidence behavioral and academic difficulties in school. Thus, as suggested by Saunders and Awad (1988), effective treatment of adolescent sexual offenders might need to consider several characteristics of the offender and of their social systems. (Borduin, 1990, p. 106). Several researchers reported learning disorders, conduct disorders, or difficulties in school among this population of offenders. Psychiatric disorders have also been prevalent along with dysfunctional and/or one-parent households. Studies of adult sexual offenders indicate that about half of adult offenders report that their first sexual offence occurred as an adolescent, and often, offenses escalated in frequency and severity over time. These findings have led to increased efforts to identify and treat adolescents who sexually abuse and to the recognition of this group as a distinct population for study. (Veneziano, 2000, p. 364). It is imperative, therefore, to not only be aware of the characteristics of juvenile sex offenders, but also to discern between those who continue offending and those who cease offending. This research literature indicates that adolescent sexual offenders are a heterogeneous population with diverse characteristics and treatment needs. (Vandiver, 2006, p. 674). Society’s growing awareness of the consequences of sexual victimization, however, has led to increased attention to juvenile sexual offenses, in particular. Of the national juvenile arrests in 2000, 4,500 were for forcible rape and 17,400 were for other sexual offenses. Of all arrests for sexual crimes in the year 2000, juvenile arrests comprised 16% of forcible rape cases and 19% of other sexual offenses cases. (Reitzel, 2006, p. 402). Consistent with an overall increase in violent crime committed by juveniles during the past decade, there has been a steady rise in the number of juveniles arrested for sexual offenses. It is currently believed that juveniles, particularly adolescent males, are responsible for 30% to 60% of the cases of child sexual abuse, and 20% to 30% of the rapes, that are committed in this country each year. (Figueredo, 1999, p. 49). One of the more alarming aspects of juvenile sex offenders is the age of their victims. Most victims are younger than 12 years old at the time of the offense. (Vandiver, 2006, p. 674). Despite the serious problems presented by adolescent sexual offenders, relatively little is known regarding the efficacy of extant treatment approaches. In fact, Davis and Leitenberg (1987) concluded that “controlled comparisons between treatment and no treatment and between one form of treatment and another form of treatment do not exist.” (Borduin, 1990, p. 105). In 1982, there were only 20 identified adolescent sex offender treatment programs in the United States. By 2002, this number had increased to 1,347 programs for children and adolescents. With the expansion of services and concerns for public safety came a number of evaluation studies to determine the effectiveness of treatment on various outcomes, particularly recidivism, juvenile sexual re-offending following treatment during prior incarceration. Current literature indicates that recidivism rates for sexual offending generally range from 2%...
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