Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Psychology

A Personality-Based Typology of Adolescent Sexual Offenders Using the Millon Adolescent Clinical Inventory

Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Psychology

A Personality-Based Typology of Adolescent Sexual Offenders Using the Millon Adolescent Clinical Inventory

Article excerpt

Previous research suggests that identifying specific subgroups amongst the population of adolescent sexual offenders may contribute to understanding the aetiology of their offending. Such knowledge may also help to improve the treatment outcomes for this group. The Millon Adolescent Clinical Inventory (MACI) profiles of 25 adolescent male sexual offenders aged 13 to 17 in a community-based treatment sample were analysed to determine if this measure could be used to identify different subtypes of offenders based on personality variables. Three groups were identified by cluster analysis: one group of antisocial and externalising types (n = 11), another group of withdrawn, socially inadequate types (n = 7) and a third group displaying few traits of clinically significant elevation (n = 7). Support was also shown for the hypothesis that adolescent sexual offenders exhibit personality profiles similar to those of delinquent non-sexual offenders. The observed typology suggests potentially different etiological pathways and different treatment needs.

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Until the 1980s there was little systematic research of the sexual offending of adolescents (Becker, 1990; Ryan, Lane, Davis, & Isaac, 1987). Largely brushed aside as a product of sexual experimentation or curiosity, investigative attention was primarily focussed on adult sexual offending (Becker & Abel, 1985; Davis & Leitenberg, 1987; Lightfoot & Evans, 2000). Despite the comparative lack of research emphasis in this area, the extent of sexual offending by adolescents is difficult to ignore. Truscott (1993) found that in the United States adolescents committed 20% of all rapes and approximately 30% to 50% of all cases of child sexual abuse. In their review of the literature, Davis and Leitenberg (1987) report that approximately 50% of adult sex offenders report that their first sexual offence occurred during adolescence. This suggests that unless intervention occurs early in the offending career of the adolescent, sexual offending will frequently persist into adulthood (Valliant & Bergeron, 1997; Fehrenbach, Smith, Monastersky, & Deisher, 1986; Kavoussi, Kaplan, & Becker, 1988). From a New Zealand perspective, a 1997 study utilising available police data found that juvenile sexual offending had constituted about 11% of the total annual rate of sexual offending in New Zealand for the 9 years prior, with many of these offences being committed against children (Graveson, 1997; cited in Lightfoot & Evans, 2000). Anderson, Martin, Mullen, Romans, and Herbison (1993) interviewed 497 New Zealand women and found that nearly one third had reported at least one incidence of sexual abuse prior to age 16. One-quarter of the perpetrators of this abuse were males younger than 18. Additionally, it has been noted that unlike acts of physical violence or property offences, sexual offending is significantly under-reported and only a small number of offences committed by adolescents result in an arrest or criminal conviction (Groth & Loredo, 1981).

Although they were once considered to be a homogeneous group, characterised by "perverted and voyeuristic tendencies" (Groth, 1977), current research suggests that adolescent sexual offenders are a heterogeneous population with a diverse range of offence variables, contributing etiological factors and personality constructs (Veneziano & Veneziano, 2002). As such, some researchers have attempted to categorise adolescent sexual offenders into distinct subtypes. Such typologies typically involve classification according to offence type or personality variables.

One of the first studies to classify adolescent sexual offenders was a descriptive typology stemming from the clinical experience of O'Brien and Bera (1986). These researchers identified seven types of offender, whom they labelled the naive experimenter, the unsocialised child sexual exploiter, the pseudo-socialised child exploiter, the sexually aggressive offender, the sexually compulsive offender, the disturbed impulsive offender, and the group influenced offender. …

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