Thursday, August 27, 2015

Q & A with Gerald Zeng co-author of "Risk and Criminogenic Needs of Youth Who Sexually Offended in Singapore: An Examination of Two Typologies"

Zeng, G., Chu, C. M., Koh, L. L., & Teoh, J. (2015). Risk and Criminogenic Needs of Youth Who Sexually Offended in Singapore: An Examination of Two Typologies. Sexual Abuse: Journal of Research and Treatment.

An increasing amount of research has been carried out to understand the characteristics of subgroups of adult sex offenders, but there is limited research into the risk factors and criminogenic needs of subgroups of youth who sexually offended. The current study investigated if there were differences in the risk and criminogenic needs of 167 Singaporean youth who sexually offended based on two typologies - youth who offended both sexually and nonsexually versus youth who offended only sexually, and youth who offended against child victims versus youth who offended against nonchild victims. Results show that youth who offended both sexually and nonsexually were found to have higher risk and criminogenic needs as compared to youth who only sexually offended. In addition, youth who offended against child victims were found to have higher numbers of previous sexual assaults as compared to youth who offended against nonchild victims. These differences have implications for the management and intervention of youth who sexually offended.

Could you talk us through where the idea for the research came from?

The aim of the study was an exploration of the differences between two typologies of youth sexual offenders which have been previously examined in the Western context. We wanted to see if this was similar locally (Singapore) for youths who had sexually offended. A lot of information that we have on youth offending in Singapore is from research conducted in the Western context, and we are seeking to build local research expertise and findings to better inform our clinical and forensic interventions.

What kinds of challenges did you face throughout the process?

The primary challenge for us was in data collection, which had to be co-ordinated among five coders. Training and resolving differences in understanding the way in which the ERASOR and YLS/CMI were coded was particularly challenging. The coders were a mix of researchers and clinicians and obtaining consensus took some amount of discussion and debate, even with the very specific manuals provided for both instruments.

We were also challenged by our reviewers who asked very pertinent questions that allowed us to not only strengthen our paper, but also broaden our understanding and perspective on conducting research in youth sexual offending.

What kinds of things did you learn about co-authorship as a result of producing this article?

The research centre that Chi Meng (second author) and I work in, the Centre for Research on Rehabilitation and Protection, was established as a centre of excellence in research and practice development. We work closely with operational and clinical staff, such as from the Clinical and Forensic Psychology Service, where both Jennifer and Li Lian (the other co-authors) are from. All three of my co-authors are clinical and/or forensic psychologists, with many years of experience practicing in the field.

A huge benefit from working in the public service with scientist-practitioners such as them, is that I personally learnt a lot about translating research data and findings into policy and practice. Through that, I was exposed to different ways of thought about forensic work and assessment. This has subsequently fed into the way studies are currently designed, executed, analysed and interpreted.

What do you believe to be to be the main things that you have learnt about juvenile sexual offending in Singapore? Also what differences, if any, was found in respect to western research in this area?

One point of difference that we found between our local and Western research is that only a small minority (about a third) of our youth committed both sexual and nonsexual offending. This is a much lower rate as compared to other Western studies (up to 60%-90%), and suggests that the majority of local youth who sexually offended may indeed have a different set of risks and needs as compared to their Western counterparts; further studies will have to be carried out though, to explore if such differences exist.

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