An exploration of family interactions and male juvenile sexual offending: a qualitative study
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The purpose of this qualitative, phenomenological study was to explore family interactions and juvenile sexual offending. The participants were 20 male juvenile sex offender males who were between the ages of 13 and 17. A semi-structured, audiotaped interview was conducted on a voluntary basis with juveniles who were placed on sex offender probation and were currently attending court-ordered sex offender therapy. The participants were recruited via flyer notification and interviewed at a North Central Texas outpatient therapy clinic. Parental consent for participation of the juveniles was obtained prior to conducting the interviews. Audiotapes of the interviews were transcribed and coded for emerging themes. Trustworthiness and credibility of the study's findings were established by utilizing an internal examiner, a team of external examiners, peer reviewing, member checking, a pilot study, and thick descriptions of the experience. The following research questions were addressed in this study: (1) How do juvenile sex offenders experience family interactions? (2) What emotional needs do juvenile sex offenders experience regarding their family experience? (3) How is sexuality experienced in a juvenile sex offender's family interactions? (4) What themes emerge regarding juvenile sex offenders and experienced family interactions? An analysis of the data revealed the following seven themes: (1) Strained Parent-Child Relationship, (2) Limited Family Verbal Communication, (3) Unhealthy Parental Sexual Education, (4) Poor Parental Financial Management, (5) Little Family Substance Abuse or Mental Illness, (6) Family Participation in Criminal Behavior, (7) Juvenile Sex Offenders' View of Parental Contributions to the Offense, Two additional themes also emerged: (8) Focus on Parents Rather Than Siblings, and (9) Positive Impact of Therapy and Probation. The findings revealed that parental influence is significant in juvenile sex offender development. Parents, particularly fathers, tended to be disconnected and abusive. Families failed to verbally communicate well or foster healthy relationships. Parents also failed to adequately supervise their children and modeled unhealthy functioning to them. Such family interactions were reported to result in poor self-image, unmanaged emotional needs, and deviant behaviors contributing to sexual offending behaviors. The results of this study may help the juvenile criminal system address and manage juvenile sexual offenders, aid therapists in providing appropriate treatment for juvenile sexual offender families, and help family scientists in developing theoretical understanding of juvenile sexual offending. The findings have limited generalizability due to several delimitations of this study. Implications and recommendations were also made for future treatment and studies.