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Emerging research suggests that, as in the case of adult sex offenders, a meaningful distinction can be made between youth who target peers or adults and those who offend against children.
However, juveniles who sexually offend are distinct from their adult counterparts.
Youth who commit sexual offenses are not necessarily "little adults;" many will not continue to offend sexually.
This is a formative area of research; while there is an ever-increasing body of knowledge regarding the etiologies of dysfunction and aggression, there remains a tremendous need for additional data to understand the etiology of juveniles sexual offending.
The presence of child maltreatmentwhether neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, or other forms of victimizationmay eventually prove to be a significant predictor of sexual offending behavior.Approximately 16,100 adolescents were arrested for sexual offenses in 1995 (excluding rape and prostitution).This is approximately 3 times the number of youths arrested for forcible rape (Sickmund et al, 1997).The effects of exposure may be cumulative, as well as interactive with other developmental experiences, such as child abuse and neglect (OKeefe, 1994).Recent studies suggest that exposure to severe community violence (e.g., murders) may also increase the likelihood of engaging in violent and antisocial behavior (Johnson-Reid, 1998).
Other factors in focus are substance abuse and exposure to pornography; however, these are seen more as disinhibitors than as causal influences.