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Adolescent Sexual Offenders Treatment Program Research Paper

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Updated: Sep 19th, 2022


Retributive justice alone cannot sufficiently address the issue of sexual offense. This is especially true in case the offender is an adolescent. Treating the deviant adolescent will not only prevent the likelihood of the occurrence of such behavior in his or her adult life but will also shield potential victims in future apart from curtailing the transmission of the deviant behavior to innocent adolescents who could be easily lured by hardened but untreated offenders. The benefits accruing to the society, the victim and the individual are enormous through utilization of the treatment program. Since prevention is better that cure, it is suffice to say that treating adolescents will help them avoid committing grievous sexual offences when they are adults.


There is little data that shows the exact number of sex offenders. Many are the instances where the adolescent sex offenders rarely go unprosecuted. Again, such offenders are often not treated. Studies show that adult sex offenders who commit grievous sexual offences started exhibiting such tendencies in their adolescent life. Studies show that in-prison adult sex offenders’ treatment programs have had incredible success in terms of monetary and emotional cost effectiveness. This has led criminologists to hypothesize that treatment of adolescent sex offenders would have far reaching success.

The reason why most adolescent delinquents escape law drag net when they commit sexual crimes in most cultures is because discussion of such deviant issues is seen as a taboo (Haughton, 2007, 87). Most of the offenders’ relatives will go to any length to help the perpetrator avoid responsibility for his or her actions. Normally, their actions will often be dismissed under an umbrella condemnation in that it is assumed that the culprits will outgrow their deviant behaviors once they mature. Such assumptions lead to serious consequences both for the sex offender and any of his or her future potential victims.


The initial stages of the treatment program are quite difficult. This is because it is not always easy to convince the victim of the importance of the treatment. The general consensus is that the culprit should pay dearly for his actions. The victims question the legitimacy of the program and it is not uncommon to hear them ask why the government should waste huge amounts of resources on offenders while most of their victims continue to suffer emotionally and otherwise with little or no assistance. However, with every degree of certainty, it would not seem improper to protect potential future victims of sexual offence by reducing the chance of reoffending (Haughton, 2007, 88). Thus, it is equally important to help sex offenders and the victims alike.

The sexual offenders’ treatment history dates back to the early 40’s. The use of different approaches in the treatment of sexual deviance has changed the outlook of society and medical practitioners regarding this behavior. It was during this time that radiologists and pediatricians decided to investigate unreported cases of children who were being physically abused. It occurred that there were no cases being prosecuted despite the fact that medical practitioners continued to receive children who often suffered from sexually transmitted diseases.

The medical practitioners’ decision to take action and document the cases of sexually abused children was due to the fact that there was reluctance from the government side to carry out expeditious investigations. In 1960, angry members of society and doctors took the initiative of investigating cases of child abuse. This time, the government intervened by passing legislation that allowed for widespread surveillance on the upbringing of children. The move by the government unveiled an alarming rate of cases of child abuse that often went unnoticed (Kaplan, 2012, 52). This served as a wake up call and in 1970; the government passed amended most of the criminal and civil laws to address the issue of sexual offense. This led to an increase in research of adult sexual offenders. The research led to the conclusion that early identification of the problem would help stakeholders intervene before any further damage was done.

The research studies unanimously showed that a considerable majority of adult sexual offenders started showing inclinations towards sexual offences before reaching the age of 18. It was also noted that juveniles reprimanded were often accused of trivial crimes while in actual case the sexual offence they had committed was extremely serious. Adolescent sexual offenders’ treatment programs developed in early 80’s failed to be effective since there was no coordinated exchange of information. This is because the cases were treated individually and in isolation and not systematically. This meant that an individual would undergo treatment for a particular sexual offence he had committed while other undetected offences went untreated. This left the offender with the possibility of progressing from less serious to more serious behaviors (Siegel, 2012, 72).

The treatment approaches used during the time lacked any scientific basis or theories and were based on trial and error or fire brigade approach. The programs were pretty much dependent on philosophies. The programs lost their differences with time and became all the more similar. This led to the evolution of the current sexual offenders treatment theories. The treatment programs are exemplified in MAPPs and ASOTP which are acronyms for Male Program for Positive Sexuality and Adolescent Sexual Offenders Treatment Program respectively (Stubbs, 2012, 73).

Criminological Theories of Treatment

The history of sexual offenders treatment programs are understood best by taking into account theories that have been in use for the last couple of decades. This will help us appreciate more the current therapeutic approach that is being used in the treatment of the offenders. The following theories are based on research carried out over a long period of time and not on mere theoretical assumptions (Stubbs, 2012, 74).

Psychosis Theories

Sexual offences perpetrated by people suffering from psychosis form a very small percentage (Pratt, 2002, 60). The difference between psychotic sex offenders and the rest is that they are unlikely to recover even after receiving help from this program. Thus, such individuals would better receive help from mental institutions since behavioral programs can have no positive impact on them.

Physiological Theories

Studies conducted recently show that persons who underwent traumatizing experiences exhibited anomalous behaviors since their brain had permanently changed the way in which it secreted chemicals when exposed to certain conditions. Most abnormal behaviors observed among adolescent sexual offenders and that were difficult to explain can be attributed to this factor. Neurological and hormonal disorders led psychologists to believe that trauma was responsible for the dysfunction of behavior among the sexual offenders (Pratt, 2002, 64).

The sexual offender in this case is normally treated through chemical castration to reduce the hyperactivity of hormones. This approach also called deprovera is used in less with juvenile sexual offenders. This is due to ethical reasons. Since this anti-testosterone approach can potentially harm the adolescent by way of retarding growth and rate of maturation, therapists often prefer the use of other approach (Stubbs, 2012, 71).

Theory of the family systems

This theory reflects feminist opinions. Deviant behavior that led to sexual offences such as incest and pedophilia is viewed to be as a result of family dysfunction. The sexual offender in this case is devoid of any criminal motive. There are cases where wives frustrated their husbands and encouraged intimacy between the husband his daughter or daughters. The victims due to confusion did not complain and had little sense of guilt (Stubbs, 2012, 78). Studies show that incest occurred equally between biological parents and children as well as step parents and step children. Given that it was the parents who encouraged the incestuous acts.

In 1970, responsibility was lifted from a victim of incest but mothers continued to BE held accountable (Pratt, 2002, 62). In 1980, the perpetrator of incest was charged with full responsibility. Treatment for sexual offenders in this case is often in the form of family therapy while the victims are accorded due protection and treated using similar therapy.

Learning Theories

This concept is derived from the fact that all knowledge and behavior is learned or obtained via experience. This theory seeks to establish ways through which undesirable behavior can be fixed with that which is appropriate through learning. Adolescent sexual offenders normally got aroused at a very young age as a result of child sexual abuse. This is thought to help reinforce sexual offence patterns and behavior (Tittle, 2010, 35).

Developmental Theories

These theories are akin to learning theories. It seeks to establish the connection and patterns between a child’s early experiences, environment, family ties and subsequent sexual offences. The offending party is often treated for trauma coming from family dysfunction, sexual and physical abuse, negligent parents, and exposure to pornography materials which might lead to development of undesirable sexual tendencies (Tittle, 2010, 30).

Cognitive Theories

Sexual offenders in this category tend to think that their sexual offence is acceptable. With such mental reinforcements, the offender is able to overcome social inhibitors. The thought patterns of such sexual offenders are often examined under cognitive theories. Sexual offenders in this category come from all age groups since they firmly believe that there is nothing wrong with their behavior. The offenders normally have strange ideas about sexuality and women (Tittle, 2010, 44).

Treatment in this case will be in form of cognitive behavioral treatment. The therapy involves trying to modify thought distortions in order to positively transform the behavior of the offender. There are seven stages that an offender goes through before ending up committing the crime. First he experiences cognitive distortions which are followed by a negative self image then the person feels that females reject him and this is followed by self isolation. After isolating oneself, the offender gets involved in intense sexual fantasies and cognitive distortions which might at some point overwhelm him. It is after being overwhelmed that the individual gets to carry out plans to enable him gratify his sexual fantasies (Pratt, 2002, 52).

The treatment that could work best for the offender is that which confronts head on his fantastic sexual belief system. Surprisingly, most victims of the sexual offender may themselves be suffering from cognitive distortions. Thus, same treatment is used for both the victim and the sexual offender to prevent any further occurrence of the offence.

Integrative Theories

These theories seek to prevent possibility of relapse in future. Sexual offenders just like drug addicts can end up getting involved in similar mistakes even after treatment (Siegel, 2012, 63). This is because the display similar thought patterns to those of former drug addicts who went back to doing drugs. The therapists try to establish the cause of the adolescent’s sexual behaviors by establishing the effect that sexual victimization may have had on him. The offender is assigned a position in a group of similar offenders who help correct each others thought patterns every time a person deviates from norm. This helps the offenders to gradually improve on their behavior.

Treating adolescent sexual offenders is no mean task. This is because; their peers isolate them immediately they learn of the person’s misdemeanor. This makes it vey difficult for them to create and sustain close relationships. Thus, by simulating alcoholic anonymous style of treating alcoholism, an adolescent sexual offender is integrated to a group of people who are currently being treated and those who were formerly treated successfully. In such environment, the individual feels accepted and chances of relapse are greatly reduced through such peer support groups (Pratt, 2002, 68).

Sexual Assault Cycle

This cycle explains the nature of sexual offence from the time it first happens and subsequent offences. This cycle lays bare the fact that previous minor offense could metamorphosis into much serious offences if the chain is not broken. This cycle was first observed in Colorado where a group of adolescents were undergoing therapeutic treatment at a closed adolescent treatment facility in 1978 (Kaplan, 2012, 52). The cycle described in part 6 cognitive theories shows that individuals have a common thought pattern regardless of whether they are first time or repeat offenders. This cycle helps identify specific behaviors to facilitate the treatment of a sexual offender.

It is clear from the theories just analyzed that treatment programs for adolescent sex offenders have moved from hypothesized approach into a more empirical approach. Thus, treatment programs are relying more on data that is readily available and less on theoretical approaches. This means that behavioral models being developed by medical practitioners are based on data collected by researchers.


There is a clear need to establish criteria for judging effectiveness of the current therapeutic treatment approaches. This is important in establishing to what extent awareness concerning the programs has been created and amount of resources that each program consumes. Adolescent treatment programs such as MAPPS in Australia and elsewhere require an intensive follow up program to prevent relapse and transmission of such sexual deviant behavior to unaffected adolescents. The success of the adolescent programs have been lacking since there is no follow up programs that are on record and if any the duration is very short (Stubbs, 2012, 75).

The success of the programs can only be ensured by placing emphasis on follow up programs. Further more, an offender who is undergoing treatment should be compared to one who is devoid of such a treatment so as to determine the level of effectiveness of the treatment programs. The treatment programs lack good will from the public who believe that allocating public resources to treatment of criminals is not justifiable and that such funds should go towards helping the victims of sexual offense. In retrospect, adolescent treatment programs cost 7 times less than incarceration.

It is clear from the foregoing discourse that incarceration alone would not rid the society of the vice. Instead, the society should be made to understand that treating adolescent sexual offenders is in the best interest of the whole society. This is because the dissenters who seem to advocate more for retributive justice rather than restorative justice do not understand that the program saves a lot of tax payers’ money, helps protect potential victims by reducing chances of reoffending, prevent transmission of the deviant behavior to innocent but naïve adolescent incase the offender relapses and reduce the likelihood of adulthood sexual offense by giving the youth a second chance in life.

Works cited

Haughton, Kelly. “Behavioral Approaches to the Management of Sex Deviations.” journal of Sex Crimes 13.2 (2007): 87-90. Print.

Kaplan, Howard. Self-esteem and theory of adolescent deviance. New York: Arcade Publishing, 2012. Print.

Pratt, James. Critical criminology and the punitive society: Some new ‘visions of social control’. Cullompton: Willan, 2002. Print.

Siegel, Larry. Criminology. Cleveland: Wordsworth, Inc., 2012. Print.

Stubbs, Joel. Women’s encounters with violence: Australian experiences. Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Tittle, Charles. “Proposed the control balance theory, wrote Control Balance.” Toward a General Theory of Deviance 18.3 (2010): 28-45. Print.

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