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Describing Associations Between Child Maltreatment Frequency and the Frequency and Timing of Subsequent Delinquent or Criminal Behaviors Across Development: Variation by Sex, Sexual Orientation, and Race

NCJ Number
Bmc Public Health Volume: 19 Issue: 1 Dated: 2019
Hannah Lantos; Andra Wilkinson; Hannah Winslow; Tyler McDaniel
Date Published
9 pages
Since child maltreatment has been linked to lower health, education, and income later in life, and is associated with increased engagement in delinquent or criminal behaviors, the current study examined trajectories of these behaviors from adolescence into early adulthood and tested maltreatment as a predictor, as well as whether observed patterns were consistent across different demographic groups.
Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, a longitudinal study of a nationally representative sample of U.S. adolescents in grades 7–12 in the 1994–95 school year, the study used linear mixed effects models to estimate growth curves of two dependent variables: violent and nonviolent offending behavior. The study tested whether maltreatment altered the intercept or slope of the curves and how the curves of these behaviors and the associations between them and maltreatment varied by sex, race/ethnicity, and sexual orientation. The sample (n=10,613) had an equal proportion of males and females, approximately one-third identified as a race/ethnicity other than White, and just over 10 percent were non-heterosexual. Experiences of maltreatment were highest for Native Americans and lowest for Whites. Models indicated that males were more likely than females to engage in both violent and nonviolent offending, and respondents who identified as non-heterosexual were more likely than their heterosexual peers to engage in nonviolent offending behavior. When maltreatment was included in models as a predictor, adolescents who experienced maltreatment had a more rapid increase in their nonviolent offending behavior. For violent offending behavior, adolescents who experienced maltreatment had higher levels of offending, and the levels progressively increased with maltreatment frequency. Sex was a moderator; the relationship between maltreatment and predicted nonviolent offending was stronger for males than it was for females. Race/ethnicity and sexual orientation did not moderate the associations between maltreatment and offending behavior. 3 figures and 65 references (publisher abstract modified)