Session: Adverse Childhood Experiences, Cumulative Trauma and Attachment, and Developmental Pathways to Sexual and Nonsexual Offending (Society for Social Work and Research 20th Annual Conference - Grand Challenges for Social Work: Setting a Research Agenda for the Future)

77 Adverse Childhood Experiences, Cumulative Trauma and Attachment, and Developmental Pathways to Sexual and Nonsexual Offending

Friday, January 15, 2016: 9:45 AM-11:15 AM
Meeting Room Level-Meeting Room 16 (Renaissance Washington, DC Downtown Hotel)
Cluster: Crime and Criminal Justice
Symposium Organizer:
George Leibowitz, PhD, University of Vermont
Tina Maschi, PhD, Fordham University
Background and Purpose:Research has consistently shown a relationship between prior traumatic experiences and subsequent criminal justice involvement and sexual offending, and therefore understanding the role of adverse environments and traumatic sequelae resulting from childhood maltreatment is critical. Younger and older offenders in the justice system in the US have experienced cumulative life course trauma, stressful life events, and disruptions in attachment, which are potential developmental pathways to sexual and nonsexual offending and may be risk factors for recidivism. For social workers, understanding psychological and social coping strategies and resiliency factors are important and necessary to incorporate into prevention and policy related efforts.

Symposium theme: Three papers will be presented investigating adverse childhood experiences, cumulative trauma, life stressors, and attachment among adolescent and older sex offenders. In the first paper, using the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) measure,  higher ACE scores were found for those sex offenders with male victims, stranger victims, victims under 12 years old, and for those offenders who had used force, weapons, or caused injury during the commission of a sex crime (p < .001). In the second paper, differences in trauma and coping among sex offenders were found, non-recidivists had higher coping scores on the social and physical coping scales of the Coping Resources Inventory (CRI) (p=.04) and recidivists had much higher mean life stressor scale scores (p<.001).  In the third paper investigating differences in attachment impairments between sexually abusive youth from their counterparts, statistically significant differences were found on individual subscales of the Inventory of Peer and Parental Attachment (IPPA) including mother trust (t=3.52, p<.001) and father overall attachment (t=1.98, p<.05), with sexual offenders showing greater problems with attachments with parents than youth with non-sexual offenses. Additionally, among sexually abusive youth alienation from an adolescent’s father and trust with mother significantly predicted delinquency (p<.001).

Implications:  This findings from the research presented in this symposium underscore the importance of social workers developing competencies in trauma-informed practice, given the link between developmental trauma and sexual offending. Additionally, using primary prevention treatment strategies that address coping, impairments in attachment, and life stressors, rather than punitive approaches, can address community safety issues and prevent recidivism.

* noted as presenting author
Adverse Childhood Experiences and Sexual Offending
Jill S. Levenson, PhD, Barry University; Melissa D. Grady, PhD, The Catholic University of America
Cumulative Trauma, Resilience, and the Risk for Recidivism Among Sex Offenders in Prison
George Leibowitz, PhD, University of Vermont; Tina Maschi, PhD, Fordham University
A Comparison of Attachment Related Impairments Between Youth with Sexually Harmful Behavior and Non-Sexual Offenders in Residential Treatment
Jamie Yoder, PhD, Ohio State University; George Leibowitz, PhD, University of Vermont; Alissa R. Ackerman, PhD, University of Washington; David L. Burton, PhD, Smith College
See more of: Symposia