The Adult Offending Outcomes of Adolescents Who Have Perpetrated a Sex Offense: Is Sexual Offending in Adolescence Indicative of Things to Come?

DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1177/15412040221123529
Published date01 January 2023
Date01 January 2023
Subject MatterArticles
Article
Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice
2023, Vol. 21(1) 326
© The Author(s) 2022
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DOI: 10.1177/15412040221123529
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The Adult Offending Outcomes
of Adolescents Who Have
Perpetrated a Sex Offense: Is
Sexual Offending in
Adolescence Indicative of
Things to Come?
St´
ephanie Chouinard-Thivierge
1
, Patrick Lussier
1,2,3
, and
Yanick Charette
1,2
Abstract
Being adjudicated for a sex offense carries signif‌icant social, legal, and penal implications that are
almost unparalleled and adolescents are no exception to this differential treatment by the justice
system. This highlights the relevance of providing criminal career information concerning future
offending among adolescents who have a record for a sex offense as they age and become adults.
Based on prospective longitudinal data collected from a sample of male adolescents enrolled in the
Pathways to Desistance study (n= 1170), negative binomial regression models are conducted to
investigate the relationship between having a juvenile record for a sex offense and the frequency of
general offending in early adulthood (i.e., 18 years old and over). Results show that adolescents
who have perpetrated a sex offense have signif‌icantly lower levels of involvement in offending
during early adulthood, whether based on off‌icial or self-reported data. Findings are discussed in
terms of policy and theoretical implications.
Keywords
sex offending, adolescence, early adulthood outcomes, criminal career, prospective longitudinal
study
Being adjudicated for a sex offense carries signif‌icant social,legal, and penal implications that
are almost unparalleled and adolescents are no exception to this differential treatment by the
1
School of Social Work and Criminology, Universit´
e Laval, Qu´
ebec, Canada
2
Centre international de Criminologie Compar´
ee (CICC), Qu´
ebec, Canada
3
Centre de Recherche Universitaire sur Les Jeunes et Les Familles (CRUJeF), Qu´
ebec, Canada
Corresponding Author:
St´
ephanie Chouinard-Thivierge, School of Social Work and Criminology, Universit´
e Laval, Pavillon Charles-De-
Koninck, 1030, av. des Sciences-Humaines, Qu´
ebec, QC G1V 0A6, Canada.
Email: stephanie.chouinard-thivierge.1@ulaval.ca
justice system (Letourneau, 2021). For some decades now, adolescents who have perpetrated a
sex offense (APSO) are subjected to punitive measures derived from the criminal justice
systems response toward adult sex offending in the United States (e.g., sex offender regis-
tration and notif‌ication (SORN) laws), which is in stark contrast with the previous orientation
from the juvenile justice system that considered their developmental features (Zimring, 2004).
Studies showed that being convicted of a sex offense is associatedwith negative consequences
later in life (e.g., diff‌iculties related to work and education; Kruttschnitt et al., 2000;
Tewksbury, 2005) that can create barriers to the desistance process (G¨
obbels et al., 2012).
Given the adult-like measures toward sex offending in adolescence and their impact on of-
fending, providing more information concerning the continuity of offending behavior over
time among APSO represents an important aspect toward a better understanding of the po-
tential impact of being off‌icially labelled by the juvenile justice system for a sex offense.
However, few criminal career studies investigated the continuity of generaloffending from one
developmental period to another among APSO who may be subjected to these measures from
the juvenile justice system. Research on the criminal careers of justice-involved adolescents
with an APSO status has been slow to emerge (e.g., Butler & Seto, 2002;van Wijk et al., 2007;
Zimring et al., 2007), but it has gained momentum in recent years (e.g., Carpentier & Proulx,
2011;Fanniff et al., 2017;Lussier & Blokland, 2014;Lussier et al., 2012;McCuish et al.,
2015). The focus of prior research has been to examine the continuity of sexual offending
between adolescence and adulthood (e.g., Reingle, 2012;Zimring et al., 2007;2009). While
this focus is important, other research has also shown that the offending behavior of these
justice-involved adolescents is not limited to sexual offending (see Caldwell, 2010) and extents
to other nonsexual antisocial and criminal behaviors (e.g., Cale et al., 2016;Lussier et al., 2012;
McCuish et al., 2015;vanWijketal.,2007).
This raises the question as to whether the issue of continuity with this offending subgroup
should be broadened to examine the continuity of offending more generally speaking. Recent
research has been focused on testing the continuity assumption of sexual offending (Lussier &
Blokland, 2014;Zimring et al., 2009) but this focus might have come with a cost i.e., we still
dont know much about continuity in criminal behavior in early adulthood for APSO. For
example, recently, Reale et al. (2020) using Canadian data, showed that a history of sex of-
fending in adolescence was not related to differential adult offending outcomes further stressing
the importance of broadening the study of continuity for this offending subgroup. Most of these
studies are conducted outside the United States (e.g., Cale et al., 2016;Lussier et al., 2012;
McCuish et al., 2016;Piquero, Farrington, et al., 2012;Reale et al., 2020;van den Berg et al.,
2017) where the legal response to APSO is quite different and more directly aligned with youth
justice principles that promotes rehabilitation and reintegration objectives. Furthermore,
American studies examining criminal career patterns have been conducted on retrospective data
(Letourneau et al., 2009) or on older samples before the shift from the justice system toward an
adult-like response to sexual offending (e.g., Zimring et al., 2009). More recent studies did not
distinguish offending between adolescence and adulthood, blurring the lines as to the extent of
the continuity of offending across this important developmental transition (e.g., Fanniff et al.,
2017). Therefore, it remains relevant to further investigate to what extent having an off‌icial
record for sex offense during adolescence within the current sociolegal context in the United
States can inform about the continuity of general offending at a later developmental period, that
is when these adolescents age and become adults. For this purpose, the current study relies on a
strategy rooted in the criminal career approach (Blumstein et al., 1986;DeLisi & Piquero, 2011;
Piquero, 2008) to examine if having a record for a sex offense in adolescence informs about the
continuity of offending in early adulthood.
4Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice 21(1)

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