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Friday, October 2, 2015

Dr. Karen Franklin Blog: The Mysterious Nature of the "Juvenile Sex Offender" - New Research Casts Doubt on Practical Meaningfulness of Emergent Category


The mysterious nature of the "juvenile sex offender”, October 1, 2015
New research casts doubt on practical meaningfulness of emergent category

If you ask John Q. Public about the public safety risk posed by a juvenile who has been arrested for a sex offense, chances are he will estimate too high. The public is woefully uninformed when it comes to risk of sexual reoffense in general, and nowhere is the gap between reality and media-driven anxiety wider than in the case of juvenile sex offenders. 

Michael Caldwell, a prominent expert on juvenile delinquency at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, has decided to take the bull by the horns and nail down an accurate risk estimate. His goal is to collect and analyze every single study that exists, whether from peer-reviewed and published research or government studies. So far, he's put together an impressive 88 data sets comprising a whopping 25,716 juvenile sex offenders.*

The data are remarkably consistent: Overall, people who committed a sex offense prior to age 18 have less than a 5% risk of being arrested or convicted for another sex offense as an adult.