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Child versus peer/adult offenders: A critical review of the juvenile sex offender literature

Colleen M. Keelan, William J. Fremouw
Aggression and Violent Behavior; Volume 18, Issue 6, November–December 2013, Pages 732–744.


Sexual offenses are serious crimes and it is believed that adolescents perpetrate 20% of all sexual assaults and 50% of all child sexual abuse (Barbaree & Marshall, 2006). To better understand the etiology of juvenile sexual offending, researchers have explored differences between those who offend children versus those who offend peers/adults. This paper critically reviewed 21 studies that compared juvenile sex offenders who abused children with those who abused peers/adults on a variety of variables including victim, offense, and offender characteristics; psychosocial variables; and predictors and rates of recidivism. Strengths and weaknesses of these studies as well as future directions for the literature are discussed. Common methodological limitations of victim-age based comparisons of juvenile sex offenders included inconsistent definitions, low-powered studies, lack of standardized measures, and recidivism data based solely on conviction rates. Overall, many inconsistent findings limit our ability to give overarching conclusions; however, the research does suggests that not only is it important to examine child and peer/adult offenders, but mixed offenders (i.e., offender with both child and peer victims) as a distinct group need to be included in comparisons as well.



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