Many people hold beliefs about juveniles who commit sexual offenses that are not borne out by current research and practice. Although one-third of sexual offenses against children are committed by juveniles, the majority of those juvenile offenders do not go on to commit sex offenses as adults.
Juvenile sex offenders are different from adult offenders. Most have fewer victims than adults; they do not meet the criteria for pedophilia; they are more responsive to treatment than adults; and they often can be treated in shorter, less intensive programs than adults. Most can live safely in the community without continued offending during treatment.
The brains of juveniles are not fully developed and they engage in risky, unwise or inappropriate behaviors more than is true for adults. Children who molest other children do not necessarily have a sustained interest in having sex with children. Their offenses are often opportunistic and reflect misguided and inappropriate efforts to seek sexual gratification, which is part of the sexual experimentation that is common during childhood and adolescence. Their underlying motivations and drives are not necessarily based in deeply seated sexual dysfunction.
Youth who do commit sexual offenses are less likely than other types of delinquents to commit future offenses. Recidivism for juvenile male sex offenders is lower (10%) than that of adult sex offenders (15%). Recidivism among female juveniles who commit sexual offenses is even lower (3%). The risk of recidivism is significantly reduced through the use of effective treatments.
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