Juvenile sex offenders: A case against the legal and clinical status quo

Elizabeth J. Letourneau, Michael H. Miner

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147 Scopus citations


The past two decades have seen a movement toward harsher legal sanctions and lengthy, restrictive treatment programs for sex offenders. This has not only been the case for adults, but also for juveniles who commit sex offenses. The increased length and severity of legal and clinical interventions for juvenile sex offenders appear to have resulted from three false assumptions: (1) there is an epidemic of juvenile offending, including juvenile sex offending; (2) juvenile sex offenders have more in common with adult sex offenders than with other juvenile delinquents; and (3) in the absence of sex offender-specific treatment, juvenile sex offenders are at exceptionally high risk of reoffending. The available data do not support any of the above assumptions; however, these assumptions continue to influence the treatment and legal interventions applied to juvenile sex offenders and contributed to the application of adult interventions to juvenile sex offending. In so doing, these legal and clinical interventions fail to consider the unique developmental factors that characterize adolescence, and thus may be ineffective or worse. Fortunately, a paradigm shift that acknowledges these developmental factors appears to be emerging in clinical areas of intervention, although this trend does not appear as prevalent in legal sanctions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)293-312
Number of pages20
JournalSexual Abuse
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Community notification
  • Juvenile sex offenders
  • Registration
  • Treatment


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