Psychological mechanisms underlying support for juvenile sex offender registry laws: Prototypes, moral outrage, and perceived threat

Jessica M. Salerno, Cynthia J. Najdowski, Margaret C. Stevenson, Tisha R.A. Wiley, Bette L. Bottoms, Roberto Vaca, Pamela S. Pimentel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

43 Scopus citations


In three studies, we investigated support for applying sex offender registry laws to juveniles. Family law attorneys supported registry laws less for juveniles than for adults. Laypeople and prosecutors supported juvenile and adult sex offender registration equally-even though they perceived juveniles as generally less threatening than adults (Study 1)-because most people spontaneously envision a severe sex offender prototype regardless of offender age (Study 2). People are less supportive of registry laws, however, when they envision less severe prototypes spontaneously (Study 2) or when induced to do so (Study 3). Effects of offender age, offender prototypes, and offense severity were mediated by perceptions of threat posed by the juvenile sex offender (i.e., utilitarian concerns). The effect of offense severity was also mediated by moral outrage (i.e., retributive concerns).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)58-83
Number of pages26
JournalBehavioral Sciences and the Law
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2010
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Law

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