Public Policy Center, University of Nebraska


Date of this Version



Published in Journal of Child Sexual Abuse 25:1 (2016), pp 93–109. doi 10.1080/10538712.2016.1111965


Copyright © 2016 Taylor & Francis. Used by permission.


Treatment for adolescents with sexually maladaptive behaviors is a continuing intervention that is changing and developing as greater understanding about this population of adolescents is obtained. The majority of treatment programs for adolescent sexually maladaptive behavior contain programming components that include cognitive distortions/thinking errors. Interviews including a conceptual mapping exercise were conducted with four adolescents adjudicated to a secure care program for sexual behaviors. All four boys completed an interview and a conceptual map of their perceived experiences as an adolescent with sexual maladaptive behaviors. All interviews were audio recorded. Analysis of the interviews and conceptual mappings yielded five themes present in the boys’ experience as well as a consideration of the role early trauma may have in the establishment of cognitive distortion development. Contributing environmental and familial factors also play an important part in sustaining cognitive distortion. Main themes include: loss of responsible father or father figure, inability to regulate emotion, lack of personal and parental boundaries, and early exposure to pornography. The contributing influence of responsible male father figures may play an even greater role in the lives of young males than originally thought. How the adolescent inaccurately perceives his environment— in essence what he tells himself and continues to tell himself to make sense of his world—are building blocks in the development and continuation of thinking errors/cognitive distortions used to commit and justify sexual offending behaviors.