The influence of a juvenile's abuse history on support for sex offender registration

Margaret C. Stevenson, Cynthia J. Najdowski, Jessica Salerno, Tisha R A Wiley, Bette L. Bottoms, Katlyn S. Farnum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


We investigated whether and how a juvenile's history of experiencing sexual abuse affects public perceptions of juvenile sex offenders in a series of 5 studies. When asked about juvenile sex offenders in an abstract manner (Studies 1 and 2), the more participants (community members and undergraduates) believed that a history of being sexually abused as a child causes later sexually abusive behavior, the less likely they were to support sex offender registration for juveniles. Yet when participants considered specific sexual offenses, a juvenile's history of sexual abuse was not considered to be a mitigating factor. This was true when participants considered a severe sexual offense (forced rape; Study 3 and Study 4) and a case involving less severe sexual offenses (i.e., statutory rape), when a juvenile's history of sexual abuse backfired and was used as an aggravating factor, increasing support for registering the offender (Study 3 and Study 5). Theoretical and practical implications of these results are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)35-49
Number of pages15
JournalPsychology, Public Policy, and Law
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2015


  • Attributions
  • Child sexual abuse
  • Juvenile sex offending
  • Legal decision making
  • Public policy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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