The subjects were 301 convicted male felons incarcerated in a New
York State medium-security facility. Inmates were randomly
selected from a list of those recently incarcerated or
transferred and were interviewed before assignment to the general
prison population. Overall, 68 percent of the sample reported
some form of early childhood victimization before age 12, either
physical abuse, sexual abuse, or neglect. The most common type of
reported victimization was physical abuse. Using a measure of
"very severe violence," the study found that approximately 35
percent of the sample reported severe childhood physical abuse.
Sexual abuse and neglect were less commonly reported and often
occurred in combination with other types of abuse. Contrary to
expectations, violent and nonviolent offenders reported similar
rates of childhood physical abuse, even of very serious forms.
Compared to inmates who had not committed sex offenses, sex
offenders were more likely to report sexual experiences before
age 12. This study found that violent offenders reported more
childhood neglect (20 percent) than nonviolent offenders (6
percent). This study reinforces the need to pay more attention to
neglected children. What remains unknown is the processes by
which these early childhood experiences lead to criminal and
violent behavior and the protective factors that move them away
from such behavior. Policy implications are discussed.