Sexually abusive youth: What are the background factors that distinguish them from other youth?

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Juveniles are responsible for about one-fifth of all sexual offences, yet relatively little is known about the developmental pathways of their offending. The purpose of this article is to investigate the background of young sexual perpetrators within the framework of the Beech and Ward's (Aggression and Violent Behaviour, 10, 31-63, 2004) etiological model of risk. The participants were 10,515 students in further education in Iceland with a mean age of 17.7 years (SD = 1.8). They completed a detailed questionnaire about their background, behaviour and mental health. Sequential binomial logistic regression was used to determine the order of the predictor variables and the data were entered in four blocks (Developmental factors; Vulnerability-Historical markers; Vulnerability-Psychological markers; and Triggering events/contextual risk factors). For males, the final model shows that what best distinguishes the sexual perpetrators from their contemporaries is a history of sexual abuse, violence experienced in the home, poor sexual self-regulation, and delinquent peers. The model is similar for females, except that violence in the home was not a significant predictor, and the use of sedatives and amphetamines also contributed to the model. The findings emphasize the importance of sexual abuse, poor self-regulation, and the potential influence of peers in sexual offending.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)289-303
Number of pages15
JournalPsychology, Crime and Law
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - May 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The data used in the study is a population-based survey among high school students in Iceland 2004. The survey was conducted by The Icelandic Centre for Social Research and Analysis in cooperation with The Government Agency for Child Protection, Ministry of Education and The Public Health Institute of Iceland. The questionnaire consisted of 169 items relating to the students’ educational, family and social background, parental and peer group relations, emotional well-being, and lifestyle (i.e. sport participation, participation in organized youth work as well as substance use and delinquent behaviour).

Other keywords

  • Developmental factors
  • Sex differences
  • Sexual abuse
  • Sexual perpetrators
  • Triggers
  • Vulnerabilities
  • Youth
  • Adolescent Behavior
  • Child Abuse, Sexual
  • Self Assessment (Psychology)
  • Questionnaires


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