Symposium theme: In this symposium, we explore the associations between risk and protective factors for sexual and nonsexual offending among a diverse sample of male adolescents (n=502) in court-ordered residential treatment. A battery of self-report measures used widely in juvenile justice settings were administered to the youth in a group format. Advanced statistical models were used: logistic regression, path analysis and Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) to test theoretical models that attempt to explain causal relationships among constructs related to sexual offending. All three papers in this symposium address findings that are consistent with previous research, and findings that were unexpected and necessitate further investigation.
In the first paper, logistic regression models were used to test whether family problems (e.g., mental health and family criminality) predicted sexual and nonsexual offenses. Findings included that the family problems scale score was significant in predicting sexual offender status, but the delinquency scale score was nonsignificant. In the second paper, path analysis was used to explore pathways to sexual aggression and executive functioning was found to have a mediating effect on the relationship between trauma and sexual offending. In the third paper, the importance of identifying protective factors in this population were highlighted, and three structural equation models (SEM) were used to investigate whether school bonding, communication problems, and educational difficulties were related to delinquent acts in both sexual and nonsexual offending youth. School bonding was found to have the largest effect in reducing delinquency among nonsexual offenders.
Understanding the differences between sexually abusive and delinquent youth can help identify the risk factors for recidivism, promote protective factors, and has important implications for social work practice, policy-related decisions, and the assessment and treatment of these adolescents.