Delinquent youth account for a substantial proportion of crime in the US and are detained each year in numbers that exceed the child population of some moderately-sized American cities. Far from being a deterrent, detention Is associated with an Increased likelihood of recidivism, particularly among those youth who suffer from posttraumatic stress reactions following from a history of victimization. Although an Important body of research substantiates that victimization Increases the risk of youths' entry Into the juvenile justice (JJ) system and their likelihood of recidivism, there are limitations to this research that the present study will address. First, we take into account that the majority of JJ-Involved youth have undergone multiple and repeated forms of polyvlctlmlzation, and will assess the dose of these experiences across development. Second, we witl build upon recent theory and research regarding posttraumatic numbing as a key mechanism linking polyvictimization to delinquency, by further elucidating the psychological and physiological processes underlying this association and demonstrating their associations with risk/recidivism versus resilience/desistence.
To this end, the present study will Investigate processes associated with posttraumatic emotional numbing and experiential avoidance, and will advance the field by Incorporating methods involving both self-report and psychophysiological measures of emotion regulation patterns within the stress response system. We will gather longitudinal data at multiple time points to establish the plausibility of directional hypotheses about the associations among polyvictimizatlon, posttraumatic experiential avoidance, emotional numbing and youth outcomes, and to allow for testing state-of-the art theoretical models positing curvilinear relations among variables. To fulflll these alms, the project will follow 300 first-time detained ethnically diverse youth ages 12-15 four times over a four-year period and will collect caregiver and youth repor1s using validated and reliable measures of polyvlctlmlzatlon, posttraumatic emotional numbing, experiential avoidance, externalizing problems, and resilience. In addition, validated psychophysiological measures of emotion regulation patterns will be taken, and JJ and school records will be obtained to provide objective Indices of recidivism versus desistance from delinquency. Longitudinal structural equation
modeling will be used to test hypotheses that the association between polyvictimization and youth outcomes Is media led by experiential avoidance and emotional numbing, comparing self-report and psychophysiological data. Multilevel modeling will be used to test hypotheses regarding curvilinear associations among these variables. The resulting dataset will be archived and the results will be disseminated to local and national stakeholders via Interim and final reports, conference presentations, and peer-reviewed publications. ca/ncf