Do youth with substantiated child maltreatment investigations have distinct patterns of delinquent behaviors?


Snyder, Susan M. & Smith, Rachel E. (2015). Do youth with substantiated child maltreatment investigations have distinct patterns of delinquent behaviors?. Children and Youth Services Review. vol. 58 pp. 82-89


Delinquency studies often use substantiation as a proxy for child maltreatment, but may underestimate maltreatment involved in unsubstantiated reports. This study assesses whether youth with unsubstantiated investigations have distinct subtypes of delinquency as compared to youth with substantiated reports. We conclude that while the subtypes of delinquency are similar, some differences between the two groups underscore the need to study the larger population of unsubstantiated investigations, which comprise 81.5% of investigations. To compare the groups we used two-group latent class analysis, and then regressed covariates onto the resulting subtypes. The sample consisted of 432 11–17 year old participants in Wave 1 of the second National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW II) with no prior investigations; 191 youth had unsubstantiated investigations and 241 youth had substantiated investigations. We identified three similar subtypes for both groups: delinquency, petty theft, and normative. We found two differences: First, more unsubstantiated youth were normative subtype members and fewer were in the petty theft and delinquency subtypes. Second, delinquency subtype youth with unsubstantiated investigations were more likely to attack with a weapon, steal or try to steal things worth between $50 and $100, and shoplift. In contrast, substantiated youth were more likely to carry a hidden weapon. When covariates were included we found that being male reduced the likelihood of being in the petty theft subtype. For substantiated cases, being older or male increased the likelihood of being in the delinquency subtype. Our findings of high probabilities of marijuana and inhalant use among delinquency subtype youth for both groups is a target for interventions.



Delinquency Latent class analysis Harm evidence model Substantiation Child welfare

Reference Type

Journal Article

Journal Title

Children and Youth Services Review


Snyder, Susan M.
Smith, Rachel E.

Year Published


Volume Number





September 11, 2015



Reference ID