Disrupting the link between maltreatment and delinquency: how school, family, and community factors can be protective


Wilkinson, Andra; Lantos, Hannah; McDaniel, Tyler; & Winslow, Hannah (2019). Disrupting the link between maltreatment and delinquency: how school, family, and community factors can be protective. BMC Public Health. vol. 19 (1) pp. 588 , PMCID: PMC6525373


Background Past experiences of childhood maltreatment are common for youth involved in the juvenile justice system. This paper explores potential protective factors at the peer, family, school, and neighborhood levels that disrupt the relationship between maltreatment and later non-violent and violent offending behavior and how these protective effects vary by a number of different sociodemographics. Methods We used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health), a nationally representative longitudinal study of adolescents who were in grades 7–12 in the 1994–95 school year. Pulling data from Add Health respondents from ages 13 to 30, we used linear mixed effects modeling to create growth curves of predicted violent and non-violent offending frequency from adolescence into young adulthood, with maltreatment frequency as a predictor. Next, we tested whether potential protective factors including time with friends, a high-quality relationship with a parent figure, school connection, or neighborhood collective efficacy moderated the intercept or slope of the growth curves. Finally, we tested if sex, race/ethnicity, or sexual orientation moderated these protective effects. Results For violent offending, school connection, high-quality relationships with mother or father figures, and neighborhood collective efficacy were all generally protective, meaning they were associated with lower levels and shallower slopes of predicted violent offending, but they were not more or less protective for those who experienced maltreatment. For non-violent offending, the same was true of school connection, high-quality relationships with a mother figure, and neighborhood collective efficacy, which were all generally protective. We found no evidence of a protective effect for time spent with friends, though this is likely due to measurement constraints, as simply measuring time spent with friends may have heterogeneous effects on delinquent behaviors. We found no evidence that any of these protective effects varied by sociodemographics. Conclusions This paper identifies factors that teachers, juvenile corrections officers, policymakers and others can intervene on to prevent engagement (or re-engagement) in delinquency and offending among youth and young adults who experienced maltreatment. As they are also protective for youth who have not experienced maltreatment they also inform general delinquency prevention efforts.



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Journal Article

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BMC Public Health


Wilkinson, Andra
Lantos, Hannah
McDaniel, Tyler
Winslow, Hannah

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