Much of the literature has identified a high rate of mental illness among juvenile sex offenders. The types of mental illnesses identified among this population include conduct disorders, depression, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ ADHD) (Terry, 2006). One may believe that a juvenile who molests another child or sexually assaults an adult must be "sick" or somehow mentally ill. Are juvenile sex offenders more likely to suffer from mental illness compared to juvenile non-sex offenders? One study found that 70% of 78 juvenile male sex offenders in a residential treatment program specifically designed for those who had committed a sexual crime had a mental illness prior to admission (Kraemer, Salisbury, & Spielman, 1998). Thus, preliminary information regarding mental illness indicates it occurs at a high rate among juvenile sex offenders.
Adolescent sex offenders have high rates of depression (Briere & Runtz, 1991; Browne & Finkelhor, 1986; Chaffin, 2008; Mash & Barkley, 1996) compared to juvenile non-sex offenders and non-delinquent juveniles (Katz, 1990), and this is especially true of juvenile sex offenders who have experienced child abuse and/or neglect (Becker, Kaplan, Tenke, & Tartaglini, 1991). Forty-two percent of the adolescent sex offenders in one study scored high on a depression inventory scale (Becker et al., 1991). It also was found that offenders who reported being sexually abused themselves had a higher rate of depression than those who had not been sexually abused. Juveniles who sexually offend often exhibit more withdrawn symptoms, compared to those who have not sexually offended (Katz, 1990).