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Perceptions of Juvenile Offenders Who Were Abused as Children

NCJ Number
Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment and Trauma Volume: 18 Issue: 4 Dated: June 2009 Pages: 331-349
Margaret C. Stevenson
Date Published
June 2009
19 pages
A literature review is conducted of all relevant research necessary to fully understand the complex relationship between childhood abuse and perceptions of juvenile offenders.
Research reviewed thus far has shown that in vignette studies of laypersons' perceptions of juveniles, child abuse elicits lenient case judgments, but in surveys and correlational studies exploring juvenile court officials' perceptions and case judgments, child abuse appears to yield punitive case judgments, more secure placement of the juvenile, and anticipated difficulties in rehabilitation. It appears that this discrepancy is explained by the fact that the real juveniles seen by officials exhibit a host of characteristics confounded with abuse in real life: chaotic family, hostile demeanor, mental health problems, and school problems, all which mediate the link between abuse and severe sentences. Although some research shows that child abuse is used as a mitigating factor for juvenile offenders, surveys of juvenile court officials reveal that it is considered an aggravating factors. This article provides a comprehensive literature review to explain these conflicting bodies of research and considers factors that naturally co-vary with childhood abuse. References