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Adolescent prostitution

Schaffer, B. & DeBlassie, R.R. (1984, Fall). "Adolescent prostitution." Adolescence, 19.


Reviewing previous research, this study explored the conditions that lead teenagers to prostitution and how American institutions and the legal system deal with them.


  • Contributing conditions. Conditions facilitating prostitution include alienation from the family, leading to dependency on peers; parental abuse (physical or sexual) and neglect; failure in the classroom and limited employment prospects; and crumbling structure of the home life.
  • Motives for prostitution. The incentives for prostitution are many: economic rewards; support for the basic needs of runaways; lack of parental attention and self-worth; adventure; institutions (exposure and labeling); hostility; and drug abuse.
  • Female and male prostitutes. Males engage primarily in homosexual contacts, although most perceive themselves as heterosexual. There are few supports for males, whereas females form an elaborate social network.
  • Justice system and institutions. Among the findings: females are punished with disproportionate severity compared to males; deviant behavior is often learned in detention facilities; homosexuality touches nearly all incarcerated individuals; and security is a primary concern, while rehabilitation is secondary.


  • Youth who fail in a traditional setting find reinforcement and support on the streets among peers.
  • The judicial systems are inadequate for the task of rehabilitation.


    • Develop supportive relationships that break the dependency of destructive relationships. Build self-esteem and self-worth through consistent love and caring to counter alienation and rejection in primary relationships. Provide strong, positive role models to aid the development of a positive value system:
      • Offer outreach in a preventative mode to youth of broken and troubled families.
      • Offer outreach to juvenile facilities.
      • Offer outreach in conjunction with parole and probation programs.
    • Consider reaching to runaways at transportation depots, providing them support before their needs become desperate, and before they are approached by pimps.
    • Offer individualized tutoring programs to increase the chances for success in school and the working world while building loving, caring relationships.
    • Provide counseling services to abused youth.

Cora Lombardi and Anne Montague cCYS