Deviant Sexual Behavior in Children and Young Adolescents: Frequency and Patterns

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A descriptive statistical study was performed to assess the characteristics of youth who began committing sexual offenses in childhood. The youth in this study ranged in age from 12 to 15. They had been committed to the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice for sexual offenses and met the criteria for residential sexual offender treatment. Three instruments were used in this study. A questionnaire was independently administered to each youth by an examiner and corroborated, when possible, by information in the youth's file. The questionnaire was supplemented by the Hare Psychopathy Scale—Revised and by information from the Risk Assessment Interviewing Protocol for Adolescent Sex Offenders. The results suggested that deviant sexual behavior may begin in early childhood, with some offenders developing patterns of offending prior to the onset of adolescence. These youth committed a median of 69.5 sexual offenses each, with each offender having a median of 16.5 victims. They used either force, threats, or violence in the large majority of their contact offenses. They predominantly came from multiproblematic families, were abused in early childhood, and were exposed to pornographic materials at a young age. The results suggest that children have the capacity to commit serious sexual offenses similar to those of older juvenile and adult offenders. The clinical implications of this study are discussed.

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