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An Update on the "Cycle of Violence," Research in Brief

NCJ Number
Date Published
March 2001
8 pages
Publication Series
This paper presents the updated results of a longitudinal study that compared the arrest records of abused and/or neglected children with arrest records for nonabused or maltreated children.
Subjects included 908 substantiated cases of childhood abuse or neglect processed by the courts from 1967 through 1971 and matched by gender, age, race, and approximate family socioeconomic status with a comparison group of 667 children not officially recorded as abused or neglected. Initial results were obtained in 1988, when the average age of subjects was 26 years. Those findings showed that childhood abuse and neglect increased the odds of future delinquency and adult criminality overall by 29 percent. The updated results discussed in this paper are based on additional arrest data collected in 1994. Findings showed that being abused or neglected as a child increased the likelihood of arrest as a juvenile by 59 percent, as an adult by 28 percent, and for a violent crime by 30 percent. Maltreated children were younger at the time of their first arrest, committed nearly twice as many offenses, and were arrested more often. Physically abused and neglected (versus sexually abused) children were the most likely to be arrested later for a violent crime. In contrast to earlier research findings, the new results indicate that abused and neglected females were also at increased risk of arrest for violence as juveniles and adults. White abused and neglected children were no more likely to be arrested for a violent crime than their nonabused and nonneglected white counterparts. In contrast, black abused and neglected children in this sample showed significantly increased rates of arrest for violence compared with black children who were not maltreated. An out-of-home placement was not related to the number of arrests among those who were removed from their homes due only to abuse and neglect. 6 exhibits and 14 references

Date Published: March 1, 2001