Abstract: A Prospective, Longitudinal Study of Risk Factors for Early Onset of Delinquency Among Maltreated Youth (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

308P A Prospective, Longitudinal Study of Risk Factors for Early Onset of Delinquency Among Maltreated Youth

Friday, January 18, 2019
Continental Parlors 1-3, Ballroom Level (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Minhae Cho, MSW, Doctoral student, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, st. paul, MN
Wendy Haight, PhD, Professor and Gamble Skogmo Chair, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, St. Paul, MN
Background and Purpose:

Maltreated youth tend to enter delinquency at younger ages than their counterparts without maltreatment histories. Existing research consistently indicates that the early onset of delinquency is associated with more adverse developmental outcomes, including recidivism. Yet research on crossover youth has not examined initial onset of delinquency. Instead, data is typically aggregated across a wide age range. Further, existing research has not identified specific risk factors for the early onset of delinquency in maltreated youth. This study investigates the onset of delinquency and associated risk factors for maltreated youth in Minnesota who commit their first act of delinquency by age 14. 


Using statewide administrative data from Minnesota Departments of Education and Human Services, and the Judicial Branch, this study prospectively examined risk factors for delinquency in 5,004 3rd graders with maltreatment histories followed for 6 –years (ages 9-14). Cox proportional hazards regression was used to model time to youth’s first involvement in the juvenile justice system, and to identify factors associated with adjudication for delinquency.


Over the 6-year study period, approximately 7% of maltreated youth (n = 332) were adjudicated in the juvenile justice system for the first time. The average number of years until 332 students crossed over was 4.4 years (1,598 days). The results of the Cox proportional hazard model indicated that being male (HR = 1.87); being Black (HR = 1.8), Native Indian (HR = 2.34), or Hispanic (HR = 1.73); having a diagnosis of emotional/behavioral disabilities (HR = 1.96); having an out-of-school suspension (HR = 1.53); and experiencing more than three previous maltreatment incidents (HR = 2.02) were significant predictors of crossing over in early adolescence.

Conclusions and Implications:

Some evaluation data is available on promising interventions for maltreated youth who have crossed over into juvenile justice system involvement. Given that involvement in the juvenile justice system creates additional risks for vulnerable youth, this research aims to inform prevention efforts by identifying factors that signal risk for early involvement in delinquency among maltreated youth. Once maltreated youth at highest risk of delinquency are identified, preventive interventions may be put in place. Interventions should be individually tailored and non-stigmatizing, for example, mentoring.