The Society for Social Work and Research

2013 Annual Conference

January 16-20, 2013 I Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina I San Diego, CA

Study of the Relationships Among Emotional Abuse, Parent and Caregiver Instability, and Disrupted Attachment On Juvenile Sex Offending Status

Saturday, January 19, 2013: 8:00 AM
Nautilus 1 (Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina)
* noted as presenting author
Marc V. Felizzi, PhD, Lecturer, Millersville University, Millersville, PA
This is a presentation of the results of a secondary analytical study into the effects of emotional abuse, parent and caregiver instability, and parental attachment in relationship to juvenile sex offending. This study is a cross-sectional design and a secondary analysis of an existing data set. A questionnaire that included standardized devices, such as the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ) (Briere, 1998) the Self Report Sexual Aggression Scale (Burton,2003) and the Inventory of Parent and Peer Attachment (Armsden & Greenberg, 1987)was utilized. The analysis examined a population of 502 juvenile sexual and nonsexual offenders, ages 12-20 in a large Midwestern state who responded in order to examine juvenile offending antecedents about sexual behavior and determine treatment needs.

Research questions included;

What effect does emotional abuse have on juvenile sex offending?

What effect does emotional abuse have on behaviors of juvenile sex offenders compared to non-sex offenders?

What effect does caregiver instability and disrupted parental attachment have on juvenile sex offenders compared to non-sex offenders?

Results for the first question showed that emotional abuse was strongly correlated to juvenile sex offender status. Close to 73% of the juvenile sex offenders said they were emotionally abused. The R2 analysis was .20 for this finding.

The second question investigated how emotional abuse affected behaviors of the juvenile sex offenders. Did emotional abuse predict juvenile sex offenders would commit more penetrative offenses?  The analysis split the identified emotionally abused offenders into two groups; high CTQ/ low CTQ scores, with statistical cutoffs. Of the lower score emotionally abused juvenile sex offenders, 53.9% fondled, 50.7% forced oral sex, 45.3% committed rape. Of the higher CTQ scores; 74.5% fondled, 66.2% forced oral sex, and 54.7% committed rape.

Hierarchical logistic regression was used for the third question and examined the strength of the variables; parental attachment and parent caregiver instability variables of lots of moves/ homelessness, child neglect, physical/ sexual abuse, parents committing illegal acts, children placed outside family, parents hitting, slapping, or punching, and frequent changes in who lives at home on sexual offender status with emotional abuse. The idea behind this question was to examine how an unstable home and poor attachment impacts sex offender status. Logistic regression showed with 75.7% of the cases, emotional abuse was a significant predictor of sexual offense status; when analyzed with parent/caregiver instability variables, “lots of moves” was the strongest predictor of offender status, followed by children placed outside of the home, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse. The parent/caregiver instability variables significantly increased R-square to .30. Maternal and paternal attachments had little effect and were the weakest predictors of offender status.

            The study's findings show that even low levels of emotional abuse can be a factor in serious hands on or penetrative sex offenses. The implications of the study’s results on Social Work Practice discuss how workers can address the impact of emotional abuse with clients and their families, and also examine how the parent and caregiver variables are areas of intervention, education and prevention of sexual offending behavior.