The study examined the judgments against minors in Zurich from between 2000 and 2008. Only male perpetrators between the ages of 10 and 18 were considered, as the number of female perpetrators was too low to draw any statistical conclusions.
While research showed that 223 boys committed 1,393 assaults on 381 victims, 14 of the boys were responsible for almost half the total number of assaults, online news website 20 Minutes reported.
Although that would tend to indicate that these 14 boys had a higher likelihood of continuing this behaviour into the future, the study found that, rather than being motivated by pathological desires, the reasons for the attacks were more a question of adolescent behaviour.
Study co-author, Cornelia Bessler, believes that motivations for assault at these young ages are a result of the difficulties associated with going through puberty and of handling so many new emotions.
“The wide range of sexual images on the internet creates wrong role models and overwhelms young people,” Bessler told the news website.
A majority of the convicted young men were from the lower social classes, and almost half of the offenders had already been in trouble with the law. This led the study to conclude that the occasions of assault were not necessarily sexually motivated, but reflected a more general pattern of behaviour.
The authors found that violence was used infrequently, and that the victims tended to be either related or well known to the perpetrators.
Nearly 63 percent of offences had involved sexual acts, while the rest were made up of verbal sexual abuse or touching. Penetration or attempted penetration of the genital areas had been carried out in some 30 percent of cases.
Children who faced criminal proceedings tended to respond well, to the extent that most did not go on to re-offend.
Talking of the benefit of criminal proceedings, Bessler said: “If you set outside limits, young people to orient themselves better.”
In the instances where children attacked unknown victims, the study showed that this behaviour was more indicative of a pathological problem, where re-offending would be more likely.