The Perversion of Youth

Controversies in the Assessment and Treatment of Juvenile Sex Offenders

288 pages

June, 2009

ISBN: 9780814720028



Also available in



Part of the Psychology and Crime series


Frank C. DiCataldo is Assistant Professor of Psychology at Roger Williams University. He has been a practicing forensic psychologist for twenty years in Massachusetts and has worked in adult corrections and juvenile justice settings.

All books by Frank C. DiCataldo

Over the past two decades, concern about adolescent sex offenders has grown at an astonishing pace, garnering heated coverage in the media and providing fodder for television shows like Law & Order. Americans’ reaction to such stories has prompted the unquestioned application to adolescents of harsh legal and clinical intervention strategies designed for serious adult offenders, with little attention being paid to the psychological maturity of the offender. Many strategies being used today to deal with juvenile sex offenders—and even to define what criteria to use in defining "juvenile sex offender"—do not have empirical support and, Frank C. DiCataldo cautions, may be doing more harm to children and society than good.

The Perversion of Youth critiques the current system and its methods for treating and categorizing juveniles, and calls for a major reevaluation of how these cases should be managed in the future. Through an analysis of the history of the problem and an empirical review of the literature, including specific cases and their outcomes, DiCataldo demonstrates that current practices are based more on our collective fears and moral passions than on any supportive science or sound policy.


  • “[Horley’s] well researched and well-written book calls into question the validity of the assessment, treatment, categorization, and stigmatization of juveline sexual offenders that have evolved over the past 40 years. . .he provides ample clinical examples that should convince even the least clinically experienced reader of the heterogeneity of juveniles who commit sexual offenses.”

    —Kamlyn Hanes, M.D.

  • “In this clearly written scholarly work, DiCataldo examines the unintended consequences of making laws based on the behavior of the most horrendous sex offenders and applying them to all sex offenders, including juveniles. . .he offers extensive references on varying aspects of the problem and carefully evaluates cases at both ends of the spectrum.”


  • “DiCataldo’s volume is enlightening and thought provoking. It is also written with a graceful and eloquent style. The book will make a terrific resource for anyone interested in understanding the current phenomenon of juvenile sex offending, ranging from clinicians, researchers, attorneys, to judges and policymakers.”

    —Metapsychology Online Reviews

  • "In a masterful and wonderfully readable blend of science, cases, legal analysis and clinical insight, DiCataldo shows us that the problem is not 'them,' but rather our own unsupportable images and presumptions about who 'they' are. If policy makers, clinicians and researchers read this book with an open mind, it could bring long-overdue change to our nation’s responses to youth whose sexual behavior sometimes troubles us."

    —Thomas Grisso, Director, Law and Psychiatry Program, University of Massachusetts Medical School

  • "Provides a well-informed and comprehensive assessment of today’s psychological and legal environments that surround youth who have committed sexual offenses. This book will be a valuable resource to clinicians, researchers, attorneys, judges, and policymakers who deal with this complex topic."

    —Brent J. Oneal, Private Forensic Practice/Clinical Instructor, University of Washington, Seattle

  • "DiCataldo's texts is a very welcomed addition to the study of adolescent sexuality as it reminds us of the need to consider the remarkable breadth of adolescents' experiences and evaluated the appropriateness of societal responses to them."

    —Danielle Schwegman, Journal of Youth & Adolescence