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Over the past five or six decades, no other offender type has been under more scrutiny from researchers than sex offenders have been.One striking observation that can be made is that while sex offenders have been described in so many ways along so many dimensions and factors, comparatively speaking, the very behavior that clinical researchers aimed to explain, sexual offending, has been largely neglected.Early theoretical models put much great emphasis on the role of deviant sexual fantasies as a precursor to sexual offending.
Although there is a long history of criminal career research with the publication of Criminal Careers and Career Criminals in 1986 by Dr.
Al Blumstein and colleagues, such a framework was introduced to the field of criminal justice and criminology.
In earlier investigations, clinical researchers have been concerned with the age of onset of sexual problems of adult offenders.
Using the term sexual problems is problematic because it encompasses behaviors such as the onset of deviant sexual arousal, the onset of deviant sexual fantasizing, the onset of deviant sexual behaviors, as well as the onset of sexual offending.
This is not an overlooking but illustrates the fact that most theoretical views of sex offending is based on the assumptions that there is a stable propensity to commit sex crime and theoretical models should only be concerned by the description and the explanation of this propensity.
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These models, therefore, do not recognize the importance of distinguishing such aspects as prevalence, age of onset, persistence, frequency, seriousness, and desistence.The interest for the criminal career is not new and several commentaries and observations about sex offenders’ criminal activity have been made for quite some time.Most of these commentaries and observations were focused on the same underlying questions, that is, sex offenders’ dangerousness.From these self-report studies (see, e.g., Abel et al.1993), however, it is not always clear whether the onset refers specifically to sex offending or to some other behavior such as the onset of deviant sexual interests, the onset of deviant sexual fantasizing, and the onset of deviant sexual arousal. When looking at the official age of onset, results clearly indicate that it significantly varies across sex offender types.Not surprisingly, the age of onset based on self-report data is younger than those based on official data (e.g., Gebhard et al. Reports suggest that sexual aggressors of women are typically charged for a first offense in their late twenties, while for sexual aggressors of children, it is typically in their late 30s.There is a gap between the age of onset reported in self-report studies with adult sex offenders and those found in studies based on police data.While the criminal career approach should not be seen as a cure-all approach, it provides a conceptual framework to organize existing study findings, to guide future empirical research, as well as to help to think more clearly about sex offenders’ criminal behavior.Therefore, this research paper aims, first, to introduce researchers from the field of sexual violence and abuse to the criminal career approach; second, to organize the empirical knowledge on the criminal activity of sex offenders using a criminal career approach; and, third, to review the state of empirical knowledge on various dimensions of the criminal career of sex offenders.These results mirror those reported in the Groth et al.study (1982), which showed an average age of onset of 19 years old for a sample of sexual aggressors against women, while in the Abel et al. The self-reported onset age for child molesters appears to be different than the one reported for rapists, but the findings are not stable across studies. (1993) study, whereas 49 % of adult rapists were JSOs, that number increased to 62 % for child molesters.