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Disrupting the link between maltreatment and delinquency: how school, family, and community factors can be protective.

NCJ Number
Bmc Public Health Volume: 19 Dated: 2019
Andra Wilkinson; Hannah Lantos; Tyler McDaniel; Hannah Winslow
Date Published
10 pages
Since past experiences of childhood maltreatment are common for youth involved in the juvenile justice system, this study examined potential protective factors at the peer, family, school, and neighborhood levels that disrupt the relationship between maltreatment and later non-violent and violent offending behavior and how these protective effects vary by a number of different sociodemographics.
The data used were from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health), a nationally representative longitudinal study of adolescents who were in grades 7-12 in the 1994-95 school year. Pulling data from Add Health respondents from ages 13 to 30, linear mixed effects modeling was used to create growth curves of predicted violent and non-violent offending frequency from adolescence into young adulthood, with maltreatment frequency as a predictor. Next, the study tested whether potential protective factors - including time with friends, a high-quality relationship with a parent figure, school connection, or neighborhood collective efficacy -moderated the intercept or slope of the growth curves. The final step was to test whether sex, race/ethnicity, or sexual orientation moderated these protective effects. For violent offending, school connection, high-quality relationships with mother or father figures, and neighborhood collective efficacy were all generally protective, meaning they were associated with lower levels and shallower slopes of predicted violent offending, but they were not more or less protective for those who experienced maltreatment. The study found that for non-violent offending, school connection, high-quality relationships with a mother figure, and neighborhood collective efficacy were all generally protective. There was no evidence of a protective effect for time spent with friends, although this is likely due to measurement constraints, as simply measuring time spent with friends may have heterogeneous effects on delinquent behaviors. Neither was there any evidence that any of these protective effects varied by sociodemographics. The identified protective factors can be promoted by teachers, juvenile corrections officers, policymakers, and others in intervening to prevent engagement (or re-engagement) in delinquency and offending among youth and young adults who experienced maltreatment. Since they are also protective for youth who have not experienced maltreatment, they can also inform general delinquency prevention efforts. (publisher abstract modified)