Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

16979 Resilience to Antisocial Behavior In Young Adults Maltreated As Children: The Role of School Factors

Saturday, January 14, 2012: 3:00 PM
Wilson (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Carolyn A. Smith, PhD, Professor, State University of New York at Albany, Albany, NY
Aely Park, PhD, Researcher, State University of New York at Albany, Albany, NY
Timothy Ireland, PhD, Department Chair, Niagara University, Niagara, NY
Background and Purpose Prior research indicates that children and adolescents who have experienced maltreatment are at risk for a range of developmental problems including delinquency and crime. Although not all maltreated children suffer long-term consequences, many do. Experts underscore the need for more longitudinal research to advance life-course perspectives on maltreatment and resilience. The period of emerging adulthood is critical in a life-span framework for examining factors promoting healthy transitions and turning points among at-risk youth. Consistent with this theme, this paper examines educational success as a turning point, examining whether graduation from high school, educational aspirations, teacher and school commitment in late adolescent reduce the risk of arrest, and self-reported crime for maltreated youth in early adulthood.

Methods Data for this study come from the Rochester Youth Development Study, a longitudinal investigation of the development of antisocial behavior in a community sample of 1,000 urban youth followed from age 13 to adulthood. The original sample includes 73% males, and 85% African American or Hispanic youth. Measures in this study come from a combination of interview data and official records collected through age 23. Substantiated maltreatment measures from CPS records include an ever-prevalence measure of substantiated maltreatment: about 20% of participants had substantiated reports. Antisocial behavior is measured by police records of arrests, and by self-reports of crimes committed across a three year period from age 21 to age 23. Protective factors include self-report of high school graduation or GED (63%), parent educational aspirations, student school commitment and teacher attachment. Multivariate analysis controls for gender, race/ethnicity, family stability, poverty, and early antisocial behavior.

Results Findings show that, among those with official maltreatment records, 18% reported frequent offending, compared to only 12% of non-maltreated youth. Similarly, 11% of maltreated youth reported violent acts, compared to 8% of those not maltreated; and 42% of maltreated youth were arrested, compared to 32% of other youth. Overall, 49% of the maltreated young adults were not arrested, and did not engage in significant levels of self-reported offending, and could be viewed as resilient. Multivariate results showed that those who completed high school were more likely to be resilient to antisocial behavior (OR = 3.0, p<.001), controlling for demographic variables and earlier antisocial behavior. Mediated logistic regression models indicate a mediating effect of both graduation and parent educational aspirations on antisocial outcomes for maltreated youth. Similar significance was not found for youth school commitment or teacher attachment.

Conclusions and Implications The study underlined the importance of school experiences as a turning point for at-risk adolescents. Finishing school is a particularly important factor in better outcomes (less general crime, violence and arrest) for maltreated adolescents so should be a target for these youth. Equally, engaging parents to maintain high parent aspirations for children's educational attainment is important. Since social workers have a strong role in school contexts and in coordinating with schools, this strengthens the importance of their role in school-based interventions to promote retention and parent involvement in school.