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Problem Behaviors in Maltreated Children and Youth: Influential Child, Peer, and Caregiver Characteristics

NCJ Number
Date Published
162 pages
This dissertation examined problem behaviors in maltreated children and adolescents and explored predictors of changes in their behavior.
Problem behaviors examined here include aggression, delinquency, risky sexual practices, substance abuse, and suicidal behaviors. The goal of the research was to expand the knowledge about potential intervention targets and directions for future research. Data were drawn from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW), the first national survey of maltreated children and adolescents. Chapters 2 through 4 of the manuscript are written as articles intended for future publications. They examine, in turn, the effect of child welfare services and child and parent characteristics on aggression and changes in maltreated elementary students; predictors of aggressive and delinquent behavior in maltreated adolescents; and risky behavior in maltreated youth over an 18-month period following entry to child welfare services. Chapter 5 presents a summary of the findings and recommendations for future research. All statistical analyses used calculated sample weights in SAS with SUDAAN used to adjust standard errors, account for clustering and stratification in sampling, and to allow for estimates of problem behaviors in the sample of youth. Change over time was addressed with descriptive analyses and repeated measures regression analysis using generalized estimating equations. Results indicated that child characteristics associated with problem behavior included hyperactivity-impulsivity-attention problems, low social skills, and depression. Predictors of problem behaviors in adolescents included the presence of deviant peers, substance abuse, engagement in high-risk sexual behaviors, and experience of harsh discipline. Factors associated with change in problem behaviors were race/ethnicity, new maltreatment report, academic achievement, and cumulative risk. These factors in behavior change varied by gender for adolescents; male behavior change was linked to age and peer rejection, while female behavior change was linked to peer rejection and child welfare services. Future research should focus on risky behavior and number of child welfare placements. Tables, figures, references

Date Published: January 1, 2004