Studies examining the long-term consequences of juvenile delinquency have traditionally relied on male samples and criminal justice based indicators of adult deviance, potentially underestimating societal costs. While a connection between juvenile delinquency and adult crime has been established for males, long-term outcomes for females, a growing segment of the juvenile justice population, have not been widely studied. Research documenting the number and type of juvenile delinquents who become abusive/neglectful caregivers is also lacking, even though available research suggests that delinquents, particularly females, may be at higher risk for engaging in family violence.
The present study addresses these gaps by following a sample of 1000 formerly incarcerated juvenile delinquents (494 females) into early adulthood and documenting their involvement within both the criminal justice and child welfare systems. Sample participants come from a cohort of youth released from New York State custody between 1991 and 1995 that were previously identified as part of a short-term criminal recidivism study. As part of that initial study, individual case files were coded for a variety of early risk factors (e.g., prior offense history, substance abuse, mental health needs, family relations). The present study expands on this work and searches state maintained criminal justice and child welfare databases to gather information on participants' arrests, convictions, incarcerations, and child welfare involvement from discharge through their 28th birthday. Specific child welfare outcomes include: presence/absence of an indicated child abuse/neglect report, alleged maltreatment type (e.g., physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect) and case role (e.g., confirmed vs. non confirmed perpetrator). Information on opportunity for deviance is also gathered through a National Death Index Search and compilation of adult incarceration data. Descriptive information regarding patterns of adult engagement within each system is reported and survival and trajectory analyses are used to examine onset of adult deviance and offense patterns across early adulthood. Analyses are conducted separately by gender and outcome type, and are controlled for windows of opportunity based on mortality and/or incarceration rates. The impact of early risk factors on risk for first transgression within each system and trajectory group membership is explored. The picture of adult deviance painted by both criminal justice and child welfare indicators is then examined with findings discussed in light of issues surrounding female delinquency and heterotypic continuity. The implication of study findings for the refinement and development of preventive services for incarcerated youth, particularly in the area of child maltreatment, is also considered.