Unsafe at Any Age: Linking Childhood and Adolescent Maltreatment to Delinquency and Crime

Mersky, J.P., Topitzes, J., Reynolds, A. (2011). Unsafe at any age: linking childhood and adolescent maltreatment to delinquency and crime. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency.

This study compares the effects of childhood maltreatment and adolescent maltreatment on delinquency and crime, including violent and nonviolent offending.

Data were derived from the Chicago Longitudinal Study, a prospective investigation of 1,539 underprivileged, minority subjects.

Results confirmed that rates of overall delinquency, along with violent, drug, and property offending specifically, were elevated among childhood and adolescent maltreatment victims compared to their nonmaltreated peers. Childhood maltreatment was associated with delinquency independent of adolescent maltreatment, and strong connections between adolescent maltreatment and delinquency were present independent of prior victimization. Childhood maltreatment was also significantly related to a panel of adult crime measures, while the effects of adolescent maltreatment on adult crime were less robust.

The study findings suggest that maltreatment at any age increases the risk of future offending, implying that investments in prevention and intervention strategies throughout childhood and adolescence may reduce delinquency and crime.

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