Juvenile Delinquency Juvenile Sexual Offending  Research Paper

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Moreover, if an adolescent who has reached 18 commits sexual offending is considered an adult sex offender, "what does this mean for young adults who engaged in sexually abusive behavior prior to age 18?" (p. 433). Because of this blurry line, Rich suggests, it is imperative that adolescents of older age must especially be provided with comprehensive treatment programs to prevent them from developing fixed sexualized abusive interests.

Because of the complicated nature of the problem of juvenile sex offending, Rich offers a holistic treatment for curing juvenile sex offenders. The holistic model, grounded on the principle that the 'whole' of the person needs to be taken into consideration, must look into the nature of the individual "whose emotions, cognitions, behaviors and relationships are driven by multiple factors, many of which are unique to that individual" (p. 444). In other words, the approach should first and foremost focus on learning about the client. It is important to develop an understanding that there are certain social factors which have turned the child into an abuser, and try to find out which of these factors motivate him or her to behave abusively. The holistic treatment model aims to find various developmental experiences that have shaped the juvenile as well as personal characteristics that define him or her, and some of these experiences and characteristics need to become targets for treatment. Holistic treatment in this sense is multi-dimensional and pantheoretical, bringing together different elements of treatment as well as different theoretical backgrounds, including ideas from neurology, cognitive behavioral and psychodynamic therapies.

In discussing treatment programs for juvenile sex offenders, it is also important to point out that the harsher and more punitive measures pursued by law enforcement agencies do not offer a viable, long-term solution for preventing juvenile sex offending. Indeed, as Letourneau and Miner (2005) point out, the idea that a more severe clinical and legal interventions for juvenile sex offenders are necessary originated from three underlying assumptions: (1) the problem of juvenile sex offending is pervasive in contemporary society; (2) juvenile sex offenders have less in common with other juvenile delinquents, but more in common with adult sex offenders; (3) absent specific treatment interventions directed against juvenile sex offenders, they are at exceptionally high risk of recidivism and carrying their abusive behavior to adulthood. The empirically-based recent studies do not support any of these assumptions. These assumptions, notwithstanding, "continue to influence the treatment and legal interventions applied to juvenile sex offenders and contributed to the application of adult interventions to juvenile sex offending." "In so doing," Letourneau and Miner argue, "these legal and clinical interventions fail to consider the unique developmental factors that characterize adolescence, and thus may be ineffective or worse" (p. 293). Letourneau and Miner suggest that a home-based, multi-dimensional treatment programs are more effective, as the juveniles who view themselves as outside the mainstream -- as "incurable" delinquents -- are less likely to change their patterns of behavior.

In summary, juvenile sex offending, while sharing some commonalities with adult sex offending, is a different problem, requiring a specific approach for treatment. Unlike adult sex offenders, adolescents are not chronic sexual deviants, do not have fixed ideas and interests, and are more likely to be influenced and shaped by changing environmental circumstances. The main factors that influence their behavioral patterns are problems of developmental stage of the youth. These problems include changing social messages, abusive parents, marital discord in their families, feelings of normlessness and isolation from peers, family, and the school. The problem requires that, instead of pursuing harsher legal and clinical measures to combat juvenile sexual delinquency, we develop a multi-dimensional, holistic, and home-based therapies which will target not the individual specifically, but also his or her social environment and factors that influence the sex offender's behavioral patterns.


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