Abstract: (WITHDRAWN) Childhood Maltreatment and Sexual and Non-Sexual Delinquency: The Intervening Role of Trauma Symptoms (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

All live presentations are in Eastern time zone.

33P (WITHDRAWN) Childhood Maltreatment and Sexual and Non-Sexual Delinquency: The Intervening Role of Trauma Symptoms

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Rebecca Dillard, MSW, Doctoral Candidate, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
Background & Purpose: Maltreatment is a risk factor for both sexual and non-sexual delinquency. Little is known about how specific forms of maltreatment relate to offending outcomes. Further, though trauma symptoms have been associated with maltreatment and delinquency, mediation pathways from maltreatment to offending behaviors considering the role of trauma have not been extensively explored. The goal of the current study was to test social learning and general strain theory explanations for delinquent and sexual offending in adolescence against one another, exploring trauma symptoms as a mediator between the four major types of maltreatment and sexual and non-sexual offending outcomes.

Methods: Data were collected via paper and pencil surveys from 136 incarcerated youth at residential treatment and community corrections facilities in a Midwestern state. Confirmatory factor analysis was used to establish a measurement model of the latent constructs of interest, and structural equation modeling was employed to test direct and indirect pathways from maltreatment to offending behaviors.

Results: All forms of maltreatment (i.e., physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, neglect) were positively correlated with each other. Individual forms of maltreatment had differential relationships with offending outcomes, with neglect experiences predicting general delinquency (.623(.220), p = .005), and sexual abuse experiences predicting sexual offending (.514(.119), p < .001). Trauma symptoms did not mediate these relationships. One possible explanation for why more of the anticipated direct and indirect effects were not observed could be due to the high levels of maltreatment and trauma symptoms in the sample. Out of 136 participants, 120 (89.24%) reported some level of trauma symptoms, and only 5 (3.67%) did not disclose any maltreatment history. The elevated maltreatment and trauma rates could have prevented an effect from being detected with a sample of moderate size. Race was only related to emotional abuse experiences, with White youth being more likely to disclose a history of emotional abuse compared with Black/African American youth. Female youth were at higher risk than males for all forms of maltreatment except physical abuse. Female youth were also less likely to disclose engaging in sexual offending behaviors; no sex differences were observed related to general delinquency. Domestic hardship was related to all forms of maltreatment, indicating that pervasive economic and household instability may increase risk for maltreatment. Duration of incarceration was related to physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. This may be because youth who have experienced maltreatment are more likely to receive long sentences.

Conclusion & Implications: Future research should explore the use of proxy measures to account for the developmental facets of trauma symptomology that may not be captured in traditional measures. Longitudinal study should be pursued to eliminate recall bias and to examine causal relationships between types of maltreatment and delinquency outcomes. Decarceration of youth should be prioritized in favor of community-based interventions that incorporate environmental concerns in treatment, while reducing the likelihood that youth will face further abuses due to their heightened vulnerability in secure settings.