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Testing Gender-Differentiated Models of the Mechanisms Linking Polyvictimization and Youth Offending: Numbing and callousness versus dissociation and borderline traits

NCJ Number
Date Published
15 pages
In addressing a research gap, this study investigated associations among polyvictimization, dissociation, numbing, callous-unemotional (CU) traits, borderline personality traits (BP), and offending in a sample of 782 youth (579 boys and 203 girls) recruited from a detention center.
The increasing prevalence of girls in the juvenile justice system suggests the importance of examining whether models of adolescent offending are differentiated by gender. Polyvictimization has emerged as a robust predictor of youth justice involvement, especially for girls, and research exploring mechanisms underlying the link between polyvictimization and offending suggests further gender differences, in that callous-unemotional (CU) traits have been implicated in samples of boys; whereas, borderline personality (BP) traits have been implicated among girls; however, a limitation of these studies is that most have included all-male or all-female samples, thus not allowing for comparisons across gender. Further, few studies have used a trauma-informed lens to investigate posttraumatic symptoms, particularly dissociation and emotional numbing, that might account for these associations. In addressing this research gap, the findings of the current study indicate that, as hypothesized, polyvictimization for both genders was related to BP through the indirect effect of dissociation and to CU through the indirect effect of emotional numbing. Further, for both genders, path models indicated indirect effects on the association between polyvictimization and offending through dissociation and BP. These results suggest the value of using a trauma-informed approach to understanding youth justice involvement and continuing to fine-tune models of gender differences in traumatized girls' and boys' offending. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 2018