Patrick Lussier

Early behaviour plays role in sex re-offending

September 20, 2007

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By Marianne Meadahl

The early life histories of sexual offenders can shed light on whether they will become repeat offenders. They also raise new questions about prevention, according to a recent study led by SFU criminologist Patrick Lussier.

The study found that the persistence of certain deviant behavioural characteristics, and the earlier they manifest, increases the tendency to sexually re-offend.

Lussier’s research tracks the behavioural indicators of sexual aggression in more than 500 convicted sexual offenders (all serving a minimum sentence of two-years).

Researchers conducted semi-structured interviews to compile information on maladaptive behaviour in the offenders, from early childhood up to adulthood.

Aggressors follow two main pathways, including one of highly antisocial behaviour, where the aggression represents a general lack of control over their tendency to want immediate gratification in spite of long-term negative consequences. “Early on, they tend to be oppositional, reckless, aggressive and deceitful,” says Lussier. “These characteristics persist and escalate in seriousness over time.”

Others adhere to a path of hyper-sexuality, lacking the ability to control their sex drives. The symptoms of hyper-sexuality appear to change over time—from early signs of sexualization in childhood to an impersonal sexual lifestyle in early adulthood. “The earlier and more persistent these characteristics are, the more likely they are to sexually re-offend,” says Lussier.

Lussier says most male children showing these early signs won’t go on to become sexually coercive or aggressive—but some will. He says a better understanding of sexualization and its development over time could play an important role in the prevention of persistent sexual offending.

Lussier’s research will be published in the journal Criminal Justice and Behaviour later this year.
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