Childhood Maltreatment and Risk of Revictimisation
Research on victimization suggested that individuals who are smaller in size and younger are at most risk of experiencing victimization. In addition, the Office for Victims of Crime (1988) found that “certain children are targeted more frequently, including those labelled “bad kids”; those who are shy, lonely, and compliant kids and also emotionally disturbed or ‘needy’ adolescents” (p.81). In addition, the Office for Victims of Crime (1988) argued that youth with physical, emotional, or developmental disabilities were at greater risk of experiencing victimization. This is particularly important because those who experienced childhood maltreatment often develop many emotional and developmental difficulties later in life, such as depression, anxiety, and aggression, which can contribute to an increased vulnerability to victimization.
With regards to the effect of childhood maltreatment on later potential for (re)victimization, Hosser, Raddatz and Windzio (2007) found that those who experienced childhood maltreatment had double the risk for later victimization in adolescence. Furthermore, Heitmeyer and colleagues (1996; as cited in Hosser et al., 2007) also found higher rates of adolescent re-victimization amongst those who experienced childhood maltreatment. In addition to these results, more support for the relationship between early childhood maltreatment and later re-victimization comes from a study by Becker-Lausen, Sanders, and Chinsky (1995; as cited in Hosser et al., 2007) who also found that childhood abuse increased later re-victimization; but instead of twice the risk of being victimized, they found four times greater risk for later re-victimization. We found more support for the relationship between early childhood victimization and subsequent adolescent victimization in an analysis by Hosser et al. (2007). Specifically, they asserted a positive correlation between childhood victimization and later victimization in adolescents. Furthermore, their results indicated maltreated children “consisted of the highest amount of ‘frequent victimizations’ (33.5%). Those who were never corporally punished, 20.3% of them reported frequent victimization “the risk of victimization in adolescents was 2.33 times higher for children who experienced maltreatment as for persons who did not” (p. 323 – 325).
When looking at the relationship between behavioural characteristics and vulnerability to victimization, Hosser et al. (2007) reported the following;
Those who did not report any victimization or indicate levels of aggression had an 18.6% probability of being victimized in adolescence. Furthermore, those who did not experience childhood maltreatment, but indicated aggressive tendencies had a 49.6% probability of experiencing victimization. At most risk were those who experience childhood maltreatment and display aggressive behaviour; as this group had a 69.6% probability of experiencing later victimization.
Hosser et al. (2007) found a clear connection between those who experienced maltreatment or serious punishment as children and an increased risk for later victimization during adolescents and suggested this was partly because of the “trauma-induced offense cycle” termed by Greenwald (2002). The trauma-induced offence cycle can be compared with the cycle of violence hypothesis; it hypothesizes that previous abuse and trauma make an individual react to situations triggering trauma-related effects with a heightened sense of fear, aggression, sense of helplessness, and heightened risk of violent “reactions and re-victimization furthering sensitivity to trigger situations” (p.329). In general, the trauma-induced offense cycle intensifies fear and anxiety within an individual who previously experienced victimization and increases their chances of a violent outburst which increases the likelihood they will be re-victimized. In support of this hypothesis, Geenwald (2002; as cited in Hosser et al., 2007) provided results indicating that maltreated children who showed aggressive behaviour in childhood had a much higher probability of revictimization in adolescence than control children.
As we have discussed, there are various characteristics that can increase a person’s vulnerability to victimization, and these are further discussed by Meadows (2001) who distinguished various offender “types” that included the depressed, dull normals, and the lonesome (p. 14 – 16). In addition to the Office for Victims of Crime (1988), Meadows (2001) argued that not only was depression a potential behavioural outcome of childhood maltreatment, but it was also a predictor of later re-victimization. As explained by Hentig (as cited in Meadows, 2001), “depressed people are likely to become victims because of their apathetic state of mind. A depressed person is generally a submissive person, frequently weak in both mental and physical strength, gullible, and easily swayed” (p.14).
In addition to depression being a predictor of later victimization, it is suggested that being classified as dull normal and lonesome increases the risk of later re-victimization. The reason for this is that dull normals are assumed to have lower IQ levels, thus their intellectual status increases their vulnerability to later victimization. Those classified as lonesome were known to seek intimate relationships with others and desire companionship so desperately that they were most likely to succumb to victimization (Meadows, 2001; 15). Knowing these specific types of individuals who are at a heightened risk of later victimization can add to the importance of this study when looking at the relationship between childhood maltreatment and adolescent characteristics, such as aggression, defiance, and compliance. However, before we can begin to identify these individuals, we must first discuss the experiences of youth while they are incarcerated in order to gain a better understanding of our population and the potential impact incarceration can have to further or correct their cycle of violence.
*References available upon request.