Young sex offenders : individual characteristics, agency reactions and criminal recidivism

University dissertation from Stockholm : Karolinska Institutet, Department of Public Health Sciences

Abstract: Background Young sex offenders (YSOs) commit a significant proportion of all reported sex crimes and many adult sex offenders report deviant sexual fantasies and sexually abusive behaviour already during adolescence. However, most previous research originates in North America. The overall aim of this study was to contribute research from a different socio-cultural and judicial context. Method All young (15-20 years) sex offenders in Sweden subjected to forensic psychiatric assessment (FPA) during the period 1988 to 1995 (n = 56) were included in a register-based study with follow-up concerning criminal recidivism. Results Historical, clinical and crime-related data could be reliably recovered from FPA-records (Paper I). The likelihood of receiving a medico-legal insanity declaration at FPA was three times higher for YSOs as compared to young nonsex offenders and adult sex offenders (Paper II). Inter-agency co-operation and professional focus on offending behaviours per se were rare in YSOs who were already known by authorities for sexually abusive behaviours before committing the index sex offence (Paper III). Hyperactivity, language disorders, other neuropsychiatric disorders and psychosocial risk factors were prevalent among the YSOs (Paper IV). Cluster analysis produced a potentially useful YSO typology based on offencerelated features (Paper V). Independent historical and clinical characteristics and recidivism patterns varied across the five clusters. Factors indicating sexual deviance were associated with elevated risk for sexual recidivism whereas early onset Conduct Disorder and psychopathy (according to Hare's Psychopathy Checklist-Revised) predicted general but not sexual recidivism (Paper VI). Conclusions The YSOs exhibited multiple constitutional and psychosocial risk factors and were very similar to YSO populations previously described in the literature. They were subjected to medico-legal declaration practices different from those applied for other young delinquents and adult sex offenders. Risk assessment of re-offending should consider offender type as well as recidivismspecific risk factors. Continued YSO research may benefit from being more hypothesis-driven, the use of prospective approaches, and the incorporation of other offender populations.

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