Applying General Strain Theory to Juvenile Sex Offenders

Sharla S. Colbert, University of Oklahoma
Margaret S. Kelley, University of Oklahoma

Various studies have been used to identify why people commit sexual offenses, but most have dealt with adult offenders. An increasing number of studies show that juveniles are committing sexual offenses at higher rates than in the past, and that that many offenses continue to go unreported. As with other violent crime, the vast majority of sex offenders are male. We investigate juvenile male sex offenders from the perspective of General Strain Theory, using data obtained from 274 juveniles in state custody in Oklahoma during the summer of 2001. We focus on a subset of juvenile males who have committed some sort of sexual offense. According to General Strain Theory, there are three major sources of strain: the failure to achieve positively valued goals, the loss of positive stimuli, and the presentation of negative stimuli (Agnew 1985). We will identify and examine external stimuli, including stressors and strain, as well as other factors, which could substantiate the usefulness of using General Strain Theory to understand juvenile sex offenders. Our findings will be useful in developing programs for reducing sex offenses among youth.

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Updated 05/20/2006