Trauma and Adolescents Who Engage in Sexually Abusive Behavior: A Review of the Literature

Rebecca Dillard, Brieanne Beaujolais
Journal of Child Sexual Abuse 2019 April 12, : 1-20
While recent research has established the abuse and victimization histories of youth who engage in sexually abusive behavior, there is still debate regarding the significance of trauma and abuse as developmental antecedents to sexual offending in adolescence. Moreover, research has not conclusively identified the types, context, and timing of adverse experiences that act as catalysts for subsequent sexual perpetration. The present comprehensive literature review has one primary aim: Explore the adverse childhood experiences of youth who engage in sexually abusive behavior, considering whether trauma may be a consistent developmental antecedent to offending. Search method, inclusion criteria, and screening protocol are described, and the articles included in the review (N = 13) are qualitatively analyzed using thematic coding. Findings indicate that traumatic experiences and symptoms may be of developmental and etiological significance for subsequent sexually abusive behavior in adolescence. Implications for research, treatment, and policy are discussed, with the hope the findings will act as impetus to develop and deliver targeted treatment and prevention programs to sexually abusive youth who have histories of victimization.


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