Making a Bad Situation Worse: Current and Potential Unintended Consequences of Juvenile Registration for Sexual Offences

Rebecca L. Bosetti, Rebecca L. Fix

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate


Within the US, children and adolescents who engage in sexually abusive behavior are often subjected to sex offender registration and notification requirements, which contribute to stigmatization and forfeiture of their civil rights without empirical basis (Lancaster, 2011; Pickett et al., 2023; Zilney & Zilney, 2009). To date, 39 states subject children with adjudicated sexual offenses to sex offender registration requirements, with most recent estimates revealing that approximately 200,000 youth have been placed on sex offender registries within the US and many are now on the registry as adults (Pickett et al., 2020). This severe response—by both members of the public and policymakers—toward children who engage in inappropriate sexual behavior is imposed upon children and adolescents with adjudicated sexual offenses in an effort to meet goals of reducing sexual violence and increasing community safety. Within the current discourse, we review the history of registration and notification practices for adolescents with sexual offenses, describe what registration and notification policies entail, and then present empirical and theoretical evidence of the harmful outcomes associated with implementation of registration and notification requirements for sexual offenses. Thus, the predominant aim of this discourse is to encourage thoughtful and critical examination of registration and notification policies and their iatrogenic impacts.

Original languageEnglish
JournalArchives of Sexual Behavior
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2024.


  • Abusive sexual behavior
  • Iatrogenic effects
  • Juveniles
  • Policy
  • Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act
  • Sexual violence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Psychology


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