Monica Williams & Bill McCarthy: Self-Control, Self-Esteem, and Adolescent Rape
Juvenile sex offenders comprise approximately twenty-five percent of the sex offender population. While classic criminological theories suggest that lower self-control and self-esteem contribute to juvenile delinquency, research on college males suggests adolescent rapists may have higher self-control and self-esteem than their peers. We use logistic regression to analyze data on 1,750 adolescent males from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) in order to examine whether general theories of offending can explain adolescent rape. Our findings suggest a positive association between self-control and rape. Furthermore, these data provide evidence of a distinction between general self-control and self-control in sexual situations, as well as between narcissism and self-esteem. We find no significant association between self-esteem, social isolation, attachment, strain, previous delinquency and rape. To explain why our findings diverge from popular theories of offending, we situate youth sexual assault within the context of theories of developing sexualities and masculinities. In light of our findings and theoretical interpretations, we argue that the consequences of self-control and self-esteem may vary across types of crime. Therefore, in order to understand youth offending such as adolescent rape, it is important to assess the unique features of different kinds of crimes that may impact the relationship between self-control, self-esteem, and offending.
Discussants: Angela Carter and Bob Faris