Date of Award

Spring 2021

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

David Finkelhor

Second Advisor

Lawrence Hamilton

Third Advisor

Cesar Rebellon


The proliferation of increasingly punitive sex crime legislation in the United States have extended to include children adjudicated of sexual offenses. Using data from the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, this dissertation examined the impact of three factors on sentencing outcomes for children referred for illegal sexual behaviors: race, same-sex victim, and county of referral. (1) Black children were disproportionately arrested for sexual offenses compared to any other racial/ethnic group. However, Black children in the sample were less likely to face harsher outcomes compared to Caucasian children, such as adjudication and ordered to register as a sex offender. (2) Children whose alleged sexual offenses involved a same-sex victim were significantly more likely to be committed and ordered to register as sex offenders. (3) Charges processed in counties that tended to lean Republican in presidential elections or had a higher concentration of Black residents were significantly more likely to face harsher consequences, such as commitment, adjudication, and sex offender registration. Moreover, accounting for across-county variations eliminated disparities in outcomes between Hispanic and Caucasian children. While offense characteristics had the largest effect sizes that predicted harsher sentencing outcomes, the present study adds to the existing body of scientific literature that raised concerns about subjecting children to the sex offender registry, when such orders appeared to be influenced by nonlegal factors.