This study examined two potential pathways from childhood victimization to violent criminal behavior, i.e., early aggressive behavior and problematic alcohol consumption.
The findings show different pathways from child maltreatment to adult violence for men and women. For men there was a direct path from childhood victimization to adult violent behavior. Men also had a second pathway to adult violent behavior that began with early aggressive behavior, followed by problematic alcohol use, and then violent behavior. For women there was no direct path from childhood maltreatment to adult violent behavior. Rather, there were two significant pathways that involved alcohol use. In one path, childhood maltreatment increased women's risk for alcohol problems, which in turn led to violent behavior, even after controlling for parental alcohol and drug problems. The second path to violent behavior for women involved no childhood maltreatment but showed a pattern of early aggressive behavior that led to alcohol problems and subsequent violent behavior. For both men and women, early aggressive behavior predicted alcohol problems; and alcohol problems predicted later violent offending. For both men and women, having parents with alcohol and/or drug problems exerted a significant influence on their alcohol problems and, in turn, subsequent risk for violence. The study involved a cohort design study in which abused and neglected children were matched with non-abused and non-neglected children and followed into young adulthood. The final sample consisted of 676 maltreated individuals and 520 controls. Approximately half of the sample was female and two-thirds were White. Early aggression was measured by self-reports, problematic alcohol use by the Diagnostic Interview Schedule, and the number of adult arrests for violence by official juvenile and adult arrest data. 2 tables, 3 figures, and 75 references