Type and Timing of Maltreatment Influence Criminal Persistence in Sexually Abusive Adolescents

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Abstract

The development of sexuality is a major goal in the normative course of puberty. However, some adolescents start and maintain sexually coercive behaviors. Maltreatment appears as a contributing factor in juvenile criminal persistence, although its role regarding reoffenses in juveniles convicted of sexual offenses (JSOs) is unclear. We examined time-dependent associations of maltreatment categories and subtypes with criminal persistence in JSOs. Files of 278 male JSOs (M = 14.64 years, SD = 1.58 years) were analyzed for experiences of emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual victimization, emotional neglect, and physical neglect. We found 3 subtypes reflecting severe maltreatment, neglectful experiences, and low maltreatment. Severe maltreatment proved to be a consistent predictor of nonsexual criminal persistence, whereas overall neglectful experiences were related to sexual criminal persistence. More specifically, physical neglect (including lack of parental supervision) appeared of major importance for criminal persistence. Results indicate that maltreatment is a contributing factor in criminal persistence in JSOs and emphasize the potential gain of applying family oriented interventions to reduce criminal persistence in JSOs.

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