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A Cluster-Analytically Derived Typology of Juvenile Sex Offenders




Higgins, Miranda

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Juvenile sex offenders are part of a heterogeneous population and appear to differ on numerous variables such as offense and victim type, family background, sexual offending characteristics, and psychopathology. Several researchers have utilized cluster-analytic techniques on personality measures in an effort to form a typology of juvenile sex offenders that contains clinical utility and more understanding of this complex group of adolescents. In order to build on the previous research and contribute to this literature, the goal of the present study was to develop an empirically-derived typology using cluster analytic techniques on the MACI and use a large number of validation measures to show differences between clusters. Pre- and post-treatment data from 440 juveniles (average age = 15.85) adjudicated with a sexual offense were used. Utilizing hierarchical cluster analysis (Ward’s method, squared Euclidean distance), a 5-cluster solution was formed, supporting the first hypothesis that a cluster solution with 4 to 8 clusters would be created. A comparison of this cluster solution with a random selection of half the sample yielded 4 similar clusters based on MACI score elevations, providing support to the second hypothesis that the clusters would be stable. Numerous validation measures tapping into characteristics deemed relevant in the lives of juvenile sex offenders were compared to the clusters; results provided mixed support for the third hypothesis that significant differences across clusters would be found. Differences across groups were found on history of psychological/psychiatric treatment, sexual abuse history, amount of trauma, psychopathy, internalizing/externalizing problems, psychosexual characteristics, attachment, and substance abuse. Based on MACI scale scores and validation measures the following cluster constellations were formed: a Broadly Disturbed Cluster (N = 42); an Anxious/Submissive/Passive Cluster (N = 171); a Dysthymic/Shame-Based/Negative Self-Image Cluster (N = 94); a Narcissistic Delinquent Cluster (N = 83); and a Distressed Delinquent Cluster (N = 50). Several clusters formed were consistent with descriptions of clusters in previous research. The clusters from the present study are described and treatment implications for the cluster groups are suggested. Study limitations and cluster analysis are discussed and directions for future research are offered. In conclusion, a stable, clinically-relevant typology of juvenile sex offenders was formed based on personality traits, providing support for the importance of a classification system with this heterogeneous group.