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The Relationship Between Juvenile Sex Offender Registration and Depression in Adulthood

Walden Dissertations and Doctoral Studies – Abstract: Accounts of sexual abuse appear daily in the media. Rightfully, this issue demands attention. Juveniles may be victims; they may also be offenders who are subject to sex offender registration and notification (SORN) policies. Growing research finds that SORN policies fail to achieve intended public policy outcomes. Little is known, however, about the unintended consequences of SORN for juvenile offenders. This study contributed to a more comprehensive understanding of the effects of these policies on this population. Merton’s concept of manifest and latent functions of ‘purposive social action’ and an alternate non-criminogenic form of Lemert’s secondary deviance proposition provided the theoretical framework. Research questions focused on whether a relationship exists between sex offender registration for a juvenile offense and severity of depression in current and former registrants after maturation into adulthood, and whether the relationship persists. A quantitative causal-comparative study was conducted using self-reported survey data from a non-probability sample of 59 registrants. Multiple regression analysis found SORN had a significant positive predictive relationship to severity of depression in adults currently registering for a juvenile offense as compared to former registrants, and the control group of those never registered, as measured by the Public Health Questionaire-9. A significant persistent depressive effect was not found in former registrants. Findings validate concerns that SORN may have iatrogenic effects for juvenile offenders; these findings also suggest that alternate, non-criminogenic forms of secondary deviancy appear to be associated with this policy. This understanding of the net effects of SORN informs policy decision makers and has social change implications for future sexual abuse prevention policies that may have greater likelihood of efficacy. Abstract and Download Link to Full Study (pdf)

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Join the discussion

  1. Timmr

    Anybody study the affects of registration on adult offenders in relationship to depression? Does no one care to find out if this registry is making adult offenders mentally ill? That should be the first study to do. If landing on this registry as an adult is threatening to our mental health, how much more so for child offenders?

  2. Mary Ann Kent

    Now they are about to stamp passports with a “scarlet letter”, letting everyone know you are a sex offender. What about the teenager who had an offense as a youth but now is a responsible, moral, law-abiding person? Is it right that they are branded for travel when a murderer doesn’t have to register and can travel around the world freely? Not right.

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