Substance Abuse

Another question examined in the existing research is whether juvenile sex offenders and their families engage in more substance abuse than juvenile nonsex offenders. It should be noted there is a paucity of research on this topic, and identifying such an association does not indicate that substance abuse causes sex crimes. Two factors can be associated (i.e., occur together), yet one may not cause the other.

Lightfoot and Barbaree (1993), in a brief summary of existing literature, said that substance abuse rates among juvenile sex offenders ranged from 3% to 72%. These researchers, however, also described the association between substance abuse and sex crimes as spurious, meaning that substance use does not cause sex crimes; instead substance use and sex crimes occur together because they are both caused by poor coping strategies.

The research on the co-occurrence of substance use and sex crimes among juvenile sexual offenders is unclear. Some studies show there is a co-occurrence (Hsu & Starzynski, 1990; Leibowitz, 2012), while other studies show that juvenile sex offenders have less substance abuse than juvenile non-sex offenders (Seto & Lalumiere, 2010). Thus, the association between substance use and sex crimes is disputable, and no clear pattern has been identified.

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