Researchers at Child Trends Incorporated aim to fill critical knowledge gaps by assessing the relationship between childhood maltreatment (i.e., emotional, physical, or sexual abuse or neglect) and delinquent behaviors (e.g., theft, damaging property, getting into a fight) in adolescence and young adulthood. Maltreatment is a serious and common form of trauma experienced by children and youth.
Analyses will examine data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, a large (n=+10,000), diverse, and nationally representative sample in which young people were followed from adolescence into young adulthood (age 13 to 30). This longitudinal data base allows for analysis of both the frequency and chronicity of maltreatment and delinquency. The analytic method utilizes linear mixed effects models to estimate growth curves of predicted delinquency frequency across development. The researchers will compare the growth curves of respondents who experienced different amounts of childhood maltreatment.
In addition to exploring this relationship broadly, the researchers will extend the study in two ways. First, they will study how the relationship between maltreatment and delinquency varies for historically understudied populations in the juvenile justice literature, including females, young people of color, and members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and lntersex (LGBTQI) community. Second, the researchers will explore potentially malleable protective factors that might help prevent young people who experienced maltreatment from engaging in delinquent behaviors and whether these factors vary among historically understudied groups.
This project aims to provide evidence for juvenile justice practitioners to increase understanding of the relationship between maltreatment and delinquency. Ideally, this will inform work on prevention of delinquent behaviors and allow practitioners to better understand how/when they can better provide trauma-informed services to young people who have experience maltreatment in order to prevent future delinquency.
The project will include interim and final progress reports for OJJDP, practitioner-friendly research briefs to translate the research design and results, and the submission of an academic paper to a peer reviewed journal. Together, these products will support important advances in the field of delinquency prevention resulting in better outcomes for youth and their communities.