Knowledge and Resource Hub
15 April 2019

What is so special about male adolescent sexual offending? A review and test of explanations through meta-analysis

This research tested explanations for male adolescent sexual offending by conducting a meta-analysis of 59 independent studies comparing male adolescent sex offenders with male adolescent non-sex offenders on general delinquency risk factors (antisocial tendencies), childhood abuse, exposure to violence, family problems, interpersonal problems, sexuality, psychopathology and cognitive abilities. The results did not support the idea that adolescent sexual offending can be simply explained as a manifestation of general antisocial tendencies. Compared with non-sex offenders, adolescent sex offenders were found to have less extensive criminal histories, fewer antisocial peers, and fewer substance use problems. However, the evidence suggested a role for sexual abuse history, exposure to sexual violence, other abuse or neglect, social isolation, early exposure to sex or pornography, atypical sexual interests, anxiety, and low self-esteem in explaining adolescent sexual offending. Others factors such as attitudes and beliefs about women or sexual offending, family communication problems or poor parent-child attachment, exposure to nonsexual violence, social incompetence, conventional sexual experience, and low intelligence were not supported as risk factors . The largest difference between sexual and non-sexual offenders occurred for atypical sexual interests, followed by sexual abuse history, and, in turn, criminal history, antisocial associations, and substance abuse.