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Psychopathy and Choice of Victims: Implications for the Sub-Categorization and Treatment of Juvenile Sexual Offenders




Sikorski, Jason

Type of Degree





Adolescent sexual offenders are responsible for a considerable portion of the sexual abuse victimization that takes place in American society today. Convicted sexual offenders report that they most often began their sexual offending proclivities in adolescence; a significant minority of these juvenile sexual offenders will continue sexually offending against multiple victims well into adulthood. Being able to identify those juvenile sexual offenders at the highest risk for developing an entrenched pattern of sexual deviancy into adulthood represents a social imperative, as failure to identify these youths might result in untold emotional and financial costs to victims, their families, and society as a whole. Most often, research pertaining to the assessment of juvenile sexual offenders has grouped all of these juveniles into a homogenous set. However, descriptive studies and comparative analyses to date, provide evidence that juvenile sexual offenders are a heterogeneous collection of individuals with varying treatment needs and associated risks for sexual and non-sexual criminal recidivism. Many investigators have called for research to focus on ways of sub-categorizing juvenile sexual offenders in useful and reliable ways. Further, explicating the differences among varying categories of juvenile sexual offenders and non-sexually offending juvenile delinquents in general, has great potential utility for the individuals responsible for tailoring and managing treatment programs for delinquent youth. 381 juvenile delinquents housed in a secure detention center in the Southeastern United States served as participants. Youth were categorized based on the age and gender of their sexual offense victims (5 levels: i) juvenile sexual offenders who targeted females exclusively, and at least one victim younger than themselves by 4 years or more; ii) juvenile sexual offenders who targeted females who were peer-aged exclusively; iii) juvenile sexual offenders who victimized at least one male and at least one victim younger than themselves by 4 years or more; iv) juvenile sexual offenders who targeted peer-aged victims, at least one of whom was male; and v) non sexually offending juvenile delinquents with no documented history of sexual offenses). The sample was further grouped based on their scores on the Psychopathy Checklist: Juvenile Version (PCL:YV) (2 levels: i) at or above the sample median Psychopathy Total Score; and ii) below the sample median Psychopathy Total Score). 2-way Analyses of Variance and Pearson Chi-Square Non-Parametric tests were used to analyze for differences across the levels of the independent variables for multiple dependent measures. Dependent measures were obtained for the following general areas: Demographics, History of Abuse Victimization, History of Violence/Criminal Offenses, Violence Exposure, Sexual Offending Variables, Psychiatric History/Personality Functioning, and Substance Abuse. Results suggested that categorizations of juvenile sexual offenders based on the age(s) and gender(s) of their sexual offense victims and their adherence to behaviors consistent with a psychopathic personality pattern hold great promise for future researchers. Individuals high in psychopathy were shown to feature more extensive criminal histories, chaotic caregiver relationships, and difficulties obeying authority figures. They were also exposed to a considerable degree of violence from an early age, and tend to behave in an unruly and forceful fashion. Juvenile sexual offenders who targeted female peers exclusively were shown to be most similar to non-sexually offending juvenile delinquents in their cognitions, behaviors, and self-concepts. Juvenile sexual offenders who victimized young children, especially those who had at least one male sexual offense victim, showed the greatest number of signs and symptoms consistent with the development of sexual