This study used longitudinal data on childhood risk of maltreatment and adult outcomes from a sample of randomly selected youth from a mixed urban and rural, demographically diverse population.
The purposes of the study were to identify higher adult arrest rates in those with a history of childhood maltreatment; to determine the extent to which higher arrest rates may be attributed to common risks for maltreatment and arrest; and to estimate the proportion of young-adult arrests that may be due to child maltreatment and compare that fraction to those due to punishment that is more widely used and considered acceptable in the general population. The data were obtained from the Children in the Community cohort originally sampled on the basis of residence in two upstate New York counties in 1975. The members of the cohort were born between 1965 and 1974, and data were collected by maternal interview on a range of health, behavioral, and environmental factors. Parents and children were interviewed separately in three follow-ups in 1983, 1985-86, and 1991-94. Data on abuse history were obtained from the New York State Child Protection Agency, self-reports of abuse from study respondents who were 18 years old or older, and selected maternal responses to questions. Of the 35 officially identified cases, 4 involved sexual abuse with or without other abuse or neglect, 16 were cases of physical abuse with or without neglect, and 15 were cases of neglect. Only nine cases involved an overlap between self-reported and official determinations of abuse or neglect. Arrest data were combined from New York State and FBI records. Although the proportion of each group of maltreated children ever arrested as an adult varied significantly, the effect was overwhelmingly attributable to high rates among those with an official record of physical abuse, with a lesser elevation among those with an official history of neglect. Among those arrested for a crime against a person, high rates were found for the officially identified physical abuse victims and for those with either self-reported or official histories of sexual abuse. The most distinctive finding was that victims of sexual abuse were also more likely to have been arrested for crimes against persons, despite the fact that this group was mostly self-reported. The findings held when controls were applied for demographic risks and early childhood punishment history. Implications are drawn for future research and for practitioners. 5 exhibits and 9 references
Date Published: January 1, 2004