Discrepancies between Parent and Youth Reports of Youths’ Antisocial Behavior: Comparisons of Canadian Sexual and Nonsexual Offenders

Some theorists view adolescent sexual offenses as manifestations of general juvenile delinquency that can be explained by antisocial personality traits. Other theorists focus on factors specific to sexual offending, such as prior sexual abuse. Skilling, Doiron, and Seto (2011) assessed 12- to 20-year-old males (78 sexual and 295 nonsexual offenders) referred by Canadian courts for mental health evaluations. Along with other measures, the youths completed the YSR while parent figures completed the CBCL. Discrepancies between YSR and CBCL scores on the Rule-Breaking Behavior and Aggressive Behavior syndrome scales for each youth were computed as the difference between each youth’s YSR score standardized within the sample and the youth’s CBCL score standardized within the sample. For sexual offenders, parents rated the youths significantly lower on both the Rule-Breaking Behavior and Aggressive Behavior scales than the youths rated themselves.

For nonsexual offenders, by contrast, parents rated the youths higher on both scales than the youths rated themselves. Although comparisons of YSR and CBCL scores have shown that youths in many societies report more problems than their parents report for them, the Skilling et al. findings indicate that there may be exceptions for particular kinds of problems. The authors concluded that “The magnitude and direction of informant discrepancies may provide an opportunity to identify and understand differences in delinquent and antisocial behavior within groups of adolescent offenders” (p. 162).

Reference: Skilling, T.A., Doiron, J.M., & Seto, M.C. (2011). Exploring differences in youth and parent reports of antisociality among adolescent sexual and nonsexual offenders. Psychological Assessment, 23, 153-163.