Indeed, Knight and Prentky found that half of the 1, adult sex offenders in their sample began sexua lly offending as adolescents. Given these facts, it is not surprising that adolescent sexual offenders ASOs have become a major societal concern. If ASOs are gener- alists, then existing risk and need assessment measures and interventions would likely be useful with this population. ASOs have commonly been considered a distinct subtype of adolescent offender, with different developmental trajectories and criminogenic needs.
However, some empirical literature does suggest that the crimes committed by ASOs are a manifestation of general delinquency risk fac- tors, including antisocial personality traits such as impulsivity and callousness, antisocial atti- tudes and beliefs, delinquent peers, early conduct problems, and substance abuse. The purpose of this entry is to summarize the theoretical literature concerning the models of adolescent sexual offending and the evidence for and against the generalist and specialist per- spectives.
The General Delinquency Explanation. The general delinquency explanation suggests that ASOs share etiological factors with other adoles- cent offenders. In a series of studies conducted by Lewis et al. The authors concluded that the similarities between violent adolescent offenders and ASOs indicate these groups have similar therapeutic needs.
While ASOs do war- rant some specialized treatment options, general antisocial and violent tendencies must be addressed in treatment as well. These similarities included psychiatric history, inadequate parenting, past delinquency, violence, school misconduct, and parent-child attachment.
Recidivism studies are also consistent with a generalist model of adolescent sexual offending. Relatively few adolescent offenders commit only sexual crimes; most commit nonsexual offenses as well, though the extent of involvement in nonsexual offending varies greatly. Next, the majority of the factors that have been shown to predict recidivism among delinquents in general criminal history, early behavior problems, antisocial personality traits, Risk Factors for Adolescent Sexual Offending R R attitudes, etc.
Lastly, sexual offenses committed by adolescents tend to occur in an escalating pattern, starting with minor nonsexual offenses such as theft to more serious nonsexual crimes such as assaults, and eventually leading to serious sexual crimes Elliott Findi ngs of this nature would suggest that ASOs are not a distinct subtype of adolescent offender.
If this were the case, current assessment tools, treatment options, and theories that are applied to adolescent offenders could be used in the study and treat- ment of ASOs without diminishing the reliability and validity of such options.
Specialist expl ana- tions of ASOs suggest that these offenders have different etiological factor s than other adolescent offenders. If this perspective is correct, then assessment and treatment methods developed for adolescent offenders in general will be less effective with ASOs, as they only address any common factors the two populations share. The- ories describing the etiology of ASOs have focused on factors such as poor childhood attach- ment, heterosocial incompetence, atypical sexual experiences, psychopathology, cognitive abili- ties, atypical sexual interests, and sexual abuse history.
The ability to form mutually rewarding relationships is thought to stem from the parent-child relationship. Stud- ies conducted with adult sex offenders have found that they are more likely than other offenders to have insecur e childhood attachments that develop into insecure adult attachment styles for a review see Marshall and Barbaree Marshall and Barbaree suggested that insecure child- hood attachments increase the likelihood of sex- ual offending in adolescents by hindering the development of healthy emotional regulation, empathy, and social skill s.
Indeed, ASOs seem to be characterized by a pattern of poor social relationships. Studies have often found high levels of anxiety, depression, and personal- ity problems in both adolescent and adult sex offenders.
Among 22 ASOs, Galli et al. Indeed, many par- ticipants in this small clinical study had substan- tial psychiatric comorbidity. The authors also reported that some participants in their study stated that their sexual impulses and sexually aggressive behavior increased when they were experiencing mood symptoms. There are theories that postulate that sexual offending is a ssociated with affect regulation and personality problems.
The third subtype emphasizes episodic affective dyscontrol, suggesting that ASOs are more likely to engage in sexually aggressive behavior when they are angry or sad. The fourth subtype is characterized by developmental personality problems such as neuroticism. At the same time, youth who are of lower intellectual or cognitive functioning may be more likely to be sexually rejected by similar-aged peers and thus feel the need to turn to children or engage in sexually coercive behavior to satisfy their emotional and sexual needs.
In a meta- analysis conducted by Cantor et al. A limitation of this meta-analysis is that the authors included all available samples of sex offenders.