What Is So Special About Male Adolescent Sexual Offending? A Review and Test of Explanations Through Meta-Analysis

A new study may have debunked the notion that adolescent sex offenders are usually socially inept, calling into question widely accepted treatment methods of teaching social skills to young offenders. 

The research, published in the American Psychological Association’s July issue of Psychological Bulletin, found no significant difference between youth sex offenders and youth offenders of nonsexual crimes in their propensity to social competence. The study showed atypical sexual desires was a more distinctive characteristic to sex offenders.

Based on a comparison of nearly 4,000 male sex offenders with more than 13,000 males who committed non-sex offenses – all between the ages of 12 and 18 – the two authors are troubled that youth sex offenders are receiving ill-conceived treatment as a result of this flawed focus on social skills. 

“If you walked into a typical group treatment for adolescent sex offenders, you might notice a lot of focus on social skills, like how to approach a girl, how to deal with conflict and understanding non-verbal communication,” Michael C. Seto of the Royal Ottowa Health Care Group and lead author of the stud said in a press statement. “Our research suggests that social skills training is not what young sex offenders need most in order to be rehabilitated.”

The authors suggest young offenders are more likely to experience such sexually deviant thoughts as desires for prepubescent children and showing their genitals to strangers, and that treatment methods focused on discussing sexuality with the offenders would be a more effective means of rehabilitation.

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