The Root Causes of Sexual Offending: Social Learning Theory

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Many etiological theories exist attempting to explain the root causes of sexual offending. Although few provide substantial evidence and no definitive conclusions have been made, the social learning theory has been proposed to account for sex offending behaviors. Specifically, the social learning theory, or victim-to-victimizer theory, suggests sexually abused children learn these behaviors and are much more likely to perpetrate abuse when they’re older (Seto & Lalumiere, 2010). The following studies have provided substantial support for the social learning etiology. Through the use of a meta-analysis, Seto and Lalumiere (2010) concluded that sexual offending is tied to prior sexual abuse. Burton, Miller, and Shill (2002) discovered significant differences between sexual offending and nonsexual offending adolescents in the areas of sexual abuse. Lastly, Burton (2003) determined that sex offender’s methods of abuse mimicked that which was done to them. The introduction, method, results, and discussion of each study is addressed and the link between prior sexual abuse and future sex offending behaviors become apparent.

Many resources go into the prevention and management of sex offenders. However, very few effective programs exist that decrease the likelihood of reoffending. Through the use of meta-analyses, Seto and Lalumiere (2010) evaluated multiple studies that examined sex offenders. Emphasis was put on etiological explanations in the hopes of identifying factors associated with sex offending. Seto and Lalumiere’s (2010) findings help in creating effective programs to decrease recidivism rates.

Seto and Lalumiere (2010) searched numerous databases and collected 59 studies conducted between 1975 and 2008 that had examined ad...

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...ic community. By identifying factors associated with sexual offending, differences between sexual and nonsexual offenders, and characteristics of offending behaviors, prior abuse has been linked to future sexual offending.

Works Cited

Burton, D. L. (2003). Male adolescents: Sexual victimization and subsequent sexual abuse. Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, 20(4), 277-296.

Burton, D. L., Miller, D. L., & Shill, C. T. (2002). A social learning theory comparison of the sexual victimization of adolescent sexual offenders and nonsexual offending male delinquents. Child Abuse and Neglect: The International Journal, 26, 893-907.

Seto, M. C., & Lalumiere, M. L. (2010). What is so special about male adolescent sexual offending? A review and test of explanations through meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 136(4), 526-575. doi: 10.1037/a0019700

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