Childhood Maltreatment Linked to Adolescent Violent Offending
With an understanding of the impact of childhood victimization on later behavioural characteristics, it is of value to discuss the connection between these negative behavioural deficits and later adolescent behaviour. We will first discuss the characteristics that increase the potential for an individual to be considered an aggressor or defiant followed by a discussion of how childhood maltreatment can be related to what seems to be compliant characteristics.
As discussed in the piece about “The cycle of violence” Widom (1989,2002) asserted that youth who experienced early childhood maltreatment were not only more likely to be incarcerated earlier in adolescence, but they were more likely to committ twice as many offenses. In addition, she suggested “maltreatment or neglect in childhood increased the likelihood of being imprisoned to about 59% during adolescence and to 25% during adulthood” (as cited in Hosser et al., 2007:319).
With regards to an increased potential for developing delinquent behaviours, negative family dynamics and family violence can increase the manifestation of later delinquent behaviour. While discussing various studies regarding the impact of family dynamics on later delinquent behaviour, Dahlberg and Simon (2008) found that “a number of family characteristics increase the probability of involvement in violent and delinquent behaviour” (p.108). More specifically, they made reference to the Cambridge study by Farrington (2003) who found that poor parenting (including poor supervision, punishment, and authoritarian child-rearing perspectives) was one of the most significant predictors of later violent offending.
Similair to Dahlberg and Simon (2008), Shirk (1998) examinined the impact family violence could have on later violent behaviour and found that families categorized as aggressive, produced children with higher rates of adversive behaviour. Shirk (1998) made special reference to adversive behaviour of high frequency and concluded that “with threatening commands and negative physical behaviours such as hitting others…children were more aggressive and less compliant than control children” (p.72). In addition, Shirk (1998) noted that children who belonged to aggressive families often misbehaved more in their families than the control group.
In a more recent report conducted by Widom (2003), amongst a sample of individuals at the age of 33, the chances of being arrested during adolescence for a violent offence increased 96% with those individuals who reported experiencing childhood maltreatment. In addition, Vandergoot (2006) reported that the type of childhood maltreatment can affect the probability that an individual will committ a violent crime during adolescence. Overall, findings reported by Vandergoot (2006) suggested a combination of physical abuse, neglect, and also verbal abuse had the strongest impact on an individual’s later quality of life, and also propensity towards adolescent violent offending.
Other studies (Vandergoot, 2006; Hosser et al., 2007; Widom, 2003) also paid particular attention to the effect of previous childhood victimization on the development of later violent behaviour. For example, Vandergoot (2006) examined various studies and found within a sample of 11 to 17 year old males that there was a direct link between previous childhood maltreatment and later violent offending. In addition, Hosser et al. (2007) argued that childhood victimization and trauma play a “central role in the development and persistence of violence” when compared to adolescents who had not experienced childhood victimization (p.318). These findings were supported by Widom (2003) who reported that maltreated children were 30% more likely to committ an act of violence later in life and further by Hosser et al. (2007) whose reults indicated that individuals who experienced frequent childhood victimization had a 33% increased likelihood of becoming frequent violent offenders. These results further strengthened the hypothesis that there is a relationship between early childhood victimization and the later manifestation of violent behaviours.
*References available upon request.