Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Teenage sex offenders-Psychology, Teenage sex offenders-Religious life, Teenage sex offenders-Substance use, Juvenile delinquents-Psychology, Abused children-Mental health, Prisoners-Religious, Juvenile justice, Adjudicated youth, Adolescents, Trauma, Collective trauma, Religion, Alcohol, Substance abuse, Drug use, Mass incarceration, Sexual abuse, Sexually abusive, Non-sexually abusive, Psychic trauma in children


This paper explored the relationships among trauma, religion, and substance abuse among adjudicated male adolescents with sexually harmful behaviors. Youth in secure juvenile justice settings often report a sequelae of complex trauma experiences, placing them at risk for a range of serious problems, including aggression, persistent delinquency and recidivism, and psychological consequences. The limited research on religion and juvenile offending supports that adolescents' religion serves as protective factors and a potential pathway to decreasing delinquent behavior and perhaps recidivism. Research on substance abuse is reviewed as risk factors to offending and an attempt at coping with the psychological consequences of victimization. The current study utilized a secondary analysis of cross-sectional data (N=332) to explore the prevalence of trauma among sexually abusive incarcerated youth, the relationship between childhood victimization and subsequent non-sexual and sexual offending. The hypotheses explored in this study included: 1) Self-reported experiences of religion as potential coping strategies may mediate the relationship between trauma and substance abuse; and 2) Substance abuse may mediate the relationship between trauma and force used in sexual offending. Findings indicated that religion mediated alcohol and drug use to manage emotional neglect both before and after incarceration. The potential implications of this study include understanding the discontinuous relationship between the practice of mass incarceration and the actual risks adjudicated youth pose to society, as well as illuminating the importance of understanding trauma, coping, substance abuse, and religion in forming social work practice and social policy.




iv, 42 p. : ill. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, 2013. Includes bibliographical references (p. 33-42)