The Primary Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse
Primary prevention, not primarily reaction.

By using this site, you agree to its terms of use and privacy policy.

Research On Sex Offenders

What follows is some of the most recent research on sex offenders and sex offender policies. Most articles are dated 2008 or newer, save for one meta-analysis that was done in 1998. Following each citation is a short description. Please be aware that for some articles, only the abstract is available without paying a fee or being a member of an educational institution, such as a school, college, or university. For some articles, a full text PDF is linked in the description.


Bonnar-Kidd, K. K. (2010). Sexual Offender Laws and Prevention of Sexual Violence or Recidivism. American Journal of Public Health, 100(3), 412-419. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2008.153254

This study is an evaluation of sex offender management policies including GPS monitoring, civil commitment, community notification, registration, and restrictions on residency, internet, and others. This article looks at the consequences of these policies, and suggests that the effectiveness of these policies is in question and may do more harm.

Chaffin, M., Levenson, J., Letourneau, E., & Stern, P. (2009). How Safe Are Trick-or-Treaters?: An Analysis of Child Sex Crime Rates on Halloween. Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, 21(3), 363-374. doi:10.1177/1079063209340143

This study analyzes the rates of child sexual abuse, looking at data from 67,307 sex offenses and 67,045 victims on and around Halloween, finding no significant increase or decrease when compared to the rest of the year. The full text of this study is available here.

Finkelhor, D., Ormrod, R., & Chaffin, M. (2009). Juveniles Who Commit Sex Offenses Against Minors. Juvenile Justice Bulletin.

This study analyzed the characteristics of children who sexually victimize other children, noting the average ages involved, proportion of crimes perpetrated by juveniles (35.6% of sex offenses against minors are perpetrated by juveniles), and recidivism statistics.

Hanson, R. K., & Bussière, M. T. (1998). Predicting relapse: A meta-analysis of sexual offender recidivism studies. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 348-362.

This is an older analysis looking at 61 recidivism studies, and looks at the differences between recidivism between rapists and child molesters. They found a sexual recidivism rate (overall) of 13.4%, which was 18.9% for rapists and 12.7% for child molesters; A nonsexual violence recidivism rate (overall) of 12.2%, which was 22.1% for rapists and 9.9% for child molesters; Additionally a general (any crime) recidivism rate (overall) of 36.3%, which was 46.2% for rapists and 36.9% for child molesters.

Hanson, R. K., & Morton-Bourgon, K. E. (2009). The Accuracy of Recidivism Risk Assessments for Sexual Offenders: A Meta-Analysis of 118 Prediction Studies. Psychological Assessment, 21(1), 1-21. doi:10.1037/a0014421

This is a meta-analysis of 118 different studies with a total sample size of 45,398 sex offenders across 16 countries. They found an average sexual recidivism rate of 11.5%, a violent and sexual crime recidivism rate of 19.5%, and a general recidivism rate of 33.2%.

Huebner, B. M., Bynum, T. S., Rydberg, J., Kras, K., Grommon, E., & Pleggenkuhle, B. (2016). An Evaluation of Sex Offender Residency Restrictions in Michigan and Missouri. United States Department of Justice.

This study looks at background literature and looks at the effects of residency restrictions in Michigan and Missouri, concluding that residency restrictions have little effect on recidivism. They also noted that sex offenders under restriction tended to live in more disadvantaged areas, suggesting that restrictions hinder successful re-entry.

Lee, S. C., Restrepo, A., Satariano, A., & Hanson, R. K. (2016). The Predictive Validity of Static-99R for Sex Offenders in California: 2016 Update. California Department of Justice.

This study analyzed the degree to which the static-99r risk assessment tool accurately predicts the risk level of sex offenders. They found that the risk assessment works well in differentiating recidivists and non-recidivists. It is valid to conclude that the static-99r risk assessment could be more widely used to differentiate offenders who are likely to pose future risks from those who are not, and place heavier restrictions on those likely to reoffend rather than a blanket restriction.

Levenson, Jill, Tewksbury, Richard (2009). Collateral Damage: Family Members of Registered Sex Offenders American Journal of Criminal Justice, 34(1-2), 54-68. doi: 10.1007/s12103-008-9055-x

This study analyzes a survey done on 584 family members of registered sex offenders, and noted financial hardships, employment problems, housing disruption, threats and harassment, and mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. Full text of this study is available here.

Prescott, J. J., & Rockoff, J. E. (2011). Do Sex Offender Registration and Notification Laws Affect Criminal Behavior? Journal of Law and Economics, 161-206.

This article discusses whether registration and notification have an effect on crime and recidivism. They claim that notification deters non-registered sex offenders, but increases the recidivism rate of registered offenders.

Sandler, J. C., Freeman, N. J., & Socia, K. M. (2008). DOES A WATCHED POT BOIL? A Time-Series Analysis of New York State’s Sex Offender Registration and Notification Law. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 14(4), 284-302. doi:0.1037/a0013881

This study was a time-series analysis looking at 21 years of arrest data in New York, categorizing arrestees into several categories, determining that 5% of arrests were of registered sex offenders or those with prior sex offenses on their record, and 95% of arrests were of those new to the criminal justice system. The full text of this study is available here.

State of Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services. (2006). Report to the Ohio Criminal Sentencing Commission: Sex Offenders. Columbus: Ohio Public Safety.

This report discussed a wide variety of topics, including sex offender recidivism, treatment and risk assessment, SORN policies, and some of the research around these topics. The first two pages give a broad overview of their findings, among which is the ineffectiveness of SORN in research.

Terry, K. J. (2015). Sex Offender Laws in the United States: Smart Policy or Disproportionate Sanctions? International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice, 39:2, 113-127. doi:10.1080/01924036.2014.973048

This analysis looked at the efficacy of laws that monitor and supervise sex offenders as compared to other countries. Topics include residence restrictions, internet registries, GPS monitoring, and civil commitment. The full text of this article is available here.

Weinberger, R. (2016). Residency Restrictions for Sexual Offenders in Minnesota: False Perceptions for Community Safety. Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers Minnesota Chapter.

This public policy brief looked at a wide variety of studies, as well as general statistics about sex offenders. They conclude that residency restrictions are ineffective at preventing sexual crimes, and that more effective policies are needed to prevent sexual crime. 

Zgoba, K. M., & Bachar, K. (2009). Sex Offender Registration and Notification: Limited Effects in New Jersey. United States Department of Justice. 

This study analyzed crime trends prior to, during, and after the implementation of Megan’s Law (notification) in New Jersey. The findings were astounding: The greatest rate of sex crime decline happened prior to implementing Megan’s Law, among many others. Despite an overall cost of $3.9 million, Megan’s Law did not appear to have a significant effect at deterring or preventing sexual crime.