As a parent, you naturally feel concerned about your child before he even reaches his teen years. You might wonder how to cope with common issues, such as experimenting with drugs and alcohol, curfew violations or bullying. Like most children, your son might be curious about sexuality. While much of this curiosity is normal, children sometimes move beyond innocent exploration into deviant behavior. However, you might wonder how to know if he has crossed that line, what his true intentions are and what you can do to help.
Basic Guidelines for Appropriate Sexual Teen Behavior
As a parent, you can take proactive measures by paying attention to your teen, watching his development and interaction with others and considering if his behaviors are typical for his age. As with nearly every area of development, children and teens progress at different rates when it comes to sexuality. Typical behaviors generally fall within a range on a spectrum. For example, children might play “doctor.” Generally, if both children fall within a similar age range and developmental stage, this exploration is considered normal. Children also begin personal sexual exploration by touching themselves, which might include masturbation. Parents should focus on the privacy of sex without shaming their child and instead should teach him that sex is healthy in the right context.
Types of Possible Teen Deviant Behavior
Possible types of deviant teen behaviors include:
Excessive sexual touching of himself that results in damage or harm
Regular attempts to look at other people who are naked
Inappropriate sexual touching ranging from fondling to sexual intercourse or
Forced or violent sexual acts.
If a teen engages in coercion, force or violent sexual behaviors, parents should seek immediate help for their teen. Sexual deviancy might occur across cultural, financial and other ranges. No matter the child’s background, he will need intervention to address the issue.
Signs of Possible Teen Sexual Deviance
The National Center on the Sexual Behavior of Youth, funded by the federal government, lists the following characteristics of possible teen sexual deviance:
Incidents happen often or regularly
Incidents occur between children with a wide age span with differing abilities
Incidents result in physical or emotional damage to others
He fails to respond to the usual parenting interventions
Incidents involve force, bribery or anger
Unusual sexual interests
Incidents are precipitated by worry or anger or
Your teen displays troubling behaviors, such as inappropriate exposure or touch.
Reasons for Possible Teen Deviant Behavior
Experts recognize that adults with patterns of sexual abuse toward children differ from teens who exhibit these behaviors when it comes to the types and motivations driving these behaviors. Children and teens might act out sexually for the following reasons:
Feeling upset, angry or worried
Suffering from a traumatic experience
Is sexually stimulated from viewing porn or sexual materials
Engaging in attention-seeking behaviors
Attempting self-soothing behaviors or
Copying the behaviors that he has seen from others.
However, previous sexual victimization is not an indicator of future behavior as a sexually deviant teen or as a sexual predator.
Studies Related to Teen Sexual Deviance
The Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers released a Minnesota survey of nearly 72,000 teens ranging from 14 to 18. The survey asked if the teen had ever initiated and forced sexual contact against another person. 1.3 percent of the girls and 4.8 percent of the boys admitted that they had engaged in this behavior.
Some of the reasons that the teens reportedly initiated forced sex included prior personal sexual victimization and drug use. Additional possible risk factors for sexual deviance include impulsive behaviors, isolation, social struggles and general delinquency.
However, these studies report hopeful news for these teens and their parents — once the deviant sexual behavior is detected, the teens stop this behavior. Specifically, data across several studies of more than 11,200 young people found an estimated recidivism rate of 7 percent during the subsequent five years. Furthermore, recidivism nearly always involved nonsexual offenses.
How to Reduce the Risk of Teens Developing Sexually Deviant Behaviors
As a parent, you can help your teen develop a healthy and positive outlook toward sexuality by encouraging the following:
Firm but loving discipline
A supportive environment and healthy family interaction
Positive peers and relationships
Proper adult supervision
Involvement in school
Acceptance of societal norms as a law-abiding citizen and
The ability to develop problem-solving skills.
Treatment Options for Teen Sexual Offenders
The National Institute of Justice, a division of the federal government, reports that juvenile sex offenders differ from adult sexual offenders, so treatments that work for adults might not benefit teens. Instead, young people might benefit more from interventions tailored to juvenile offenders in general. One effective approach includes focusing on accountability, confronting denial and learning to empathize with victims. The four key types of juvenile sex offender treatments follow:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy — This group therapy addresses the thought process of offenders that led to their maladaptive behaviors. CBT helps offenders evaluate their thoughts by teaching them new prosocial skills and redirecting how they address behaviors.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy/Relapse Prevention — Relapse prevention works with CBT to minimize the risk of a relapse by reviewing emotional and social aspects that might contribute to a relapse. A therapist helps the person look at reasons for his reactions and works out coping mechanisms to address the problem.
Psychotherapeutic —Conducted via an individual or a group setting, this model incorporates the use of insight therapy in order to analyze the reasons for the behaviors. Psychotherapeutic interventions also considers previous trauma that the offender might have suffered, which helps him deal with his issues.
Multisystemic Therapy — MST therapy, the most intensive of all treatments, focuses on interpersonal behaviors and overall socialization. Providers usually go to the teen’s home and also work with involved adults, including parents, educators and probation officers, and even peers, in some cases. MST educates parents and provides them with additional treatment resources.
Treatment might occur in the community, at a detention center, at a residential treatment facility, at home or in a combination of settings and might include follow-up sessions.