The psychosocial characteristics of adolescent boys who sexually offend : a comparative study.
Objective: This thesis set out to investigate whether there were differences between juveniles
who had either sexually offended against children (child molesters) or against adult
women/female peers (sexual assaulters), and between both these groups and non-sexual
violent offenders and property offenders. The groups were compared across a range of
demographic, developmental, family, educational, offence, and psychological variables,
including IQ, attribution of criminal behaviour, masculine identity, perception of parenting
style, relationship with parents, and attitudes toward rape and rape victims.
Method: Four groups of 27 male British juveniles who admitted their offending were
compared, matched for age, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. Many of the participants
had been referred to Glenthorne Youth Treatment Centre, and had committed the most
serious types of sexual and violent offences. Background data were collated from case-notes
and other archival sources using a structured proforma. Participants were also seen by the
researcher for administration of a battery of psychometric tests and questionnaires.
Results: A number of between-group differences were found, especially in the child
molesters, who were found to have significantly more social, developmental, and learning
problems; to be less delinquent and antisocial; more extensively sexually victimized; and less
violent in their sexual offending. However, a minority had been sexually violent. The sexual
assaulters were more likely to be dissatisfied with parental care and relationships, especially
with father; have a hypermasculine sexual identity; and to hold calloused sexual attitudes, and
rape-supportive beliefs and attitudes. The gender-socialization theory of male sexual
aggression toward women was supported. A subgroup of extremely delinquent, violent
juvenile sex offenders was also identified, composed of child molesters and sexual assaulters.
Conclusions: The differences found between sexual assaulters and child molesters, and the
existence of a mixed-group of extremely antisocial juvenile sex offenders, have implications
for the treatment and classification of juvenile sex offenders. Generic intervention
programmes for young offenders should adopt behavioural and thinking skill-development
approaches to reduce the risk of criminal behaviour, including sexual crime. Sex-offencespecific
treatment should be targeted more closely at the minority of high-risk, sexually
deviant young offenders. Typologies of juvenile sex offenders also need to be revisited