Maltreatment and delinquency associations across development: Assessing differences among historically understudied groups and potential protective factors


Lantos, Hannah; Wilkinson, Andra; McDaniel, Tyler; & Winslow, Hannah (2018). Maltreatment and delinquency associations across development: Assessing differences among historically understudied groups and potential protective factors. 2018 Add Health Users Conference. Bethesda, MD.


Introduction: Maltreatment negatively affects children’s well-being, oftentimes into adulthood. In 2016, 9.1 out of every 1,000 children were involved in the child welfare, with 14 percent suffering multiple types of maltreatment. In addition to other negative outcomes, youth who are maltreated are more likely to engage in delinquent behavior such as stealing or committing violence. To interrupt this link, we must understand how the relationship between maltreatment and delinquency varies longitudinally across development, which protective factors matter, and how these associations vary across subgroups. Method: To bridge this knowledge gap, Child Trends researchers conducted new, innovative analyses to investigate the link between maltreatment and delinquency, including potential malleable protective factors, and variation by sociodemographics. Using data from Add Health (N = 10,613), we employed linear mixed effects models to estimate growth curves of nonviolent and violent offending, testing maltreatment as a predictor and five potential protective factors as moderators. For all analyses, we examined variation by sex, race/ethnicity and sexual orientation. Results: Amid a large, nationally representative sample, 77% of respondents self-reported an experience of maltreatment and approximately one third reported at least one act of nonviolent or violent offending. The longitudinal pattern of offending varied significantly by gender (male>females) and for non-violent offending by sexual orientation (LGBQ>non-LGBQ). Maltreatment predicted a step-wise effect on nonviolent offending and an all-or-nothing effect on violent offending. Maltreated males had significantly larger increases in predicted nonviolent delinquency (ref: females). Overall, school connection, quality maternal/paternal relationship, and neighborhood collective efficacy moderated the link between maltreatment and both types of delinquency, with little difference by sociodemographics. Conclusion: Despite the nuances in maltreatment and offending across development, there are malleable protective factors that seem to mitigate risk at an equal rate across all sub-groups. Additional research is needed to probe how these relationships vary by type of maltreatment as well as by the timing of the maltreatment and protective factor. These results have implications for delinquency prevention both within the child welfare and juvenile justice systems and before children are engaged in either system.

Reference Type

Conference proceeding

Book Title

2018 Add Health Users Conference


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

Year Published


City of Publication

Bethesda, MD

Reference ID