CHILD MALTREATMENT AND YOUTHFUL PROBLEM BEHAVIOR*

Authors


  • *

    We appreciate the useful comments of the anonymous reviewers. This research was supported by the North Carolina Governor's Crime Commission (Grants 180–187–D3– 5093 and 180–188–D3–J093) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration of Children, Youth and Families, National Center of Child Abuse and Neglect (Grant 90–CA–1455). The opinions expressed in this paper do not necessarily reflect the views of the North Carolina Governor's Crime Commission or of the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect.

  • Matthew T. Zingraff is Associate Professor of Sociology at North Carolina State University. His research interests include the behavioral, educational, and mental health consequences of child maltreatment and the processing of maltreated children in the socialflegal response network.

  • Jeffrey Leiter is Associate Professor of Sociology at North Carolina State University. He has two long-standing lines of research. The first, on southern textile workers, led to the 1991 collection Hanging by a Thread (I.L.R. Press), of which he is co-editor. The second, on school organization, which includes earlier studies of teacher autonomy, tracking, and grading, has now involved him in the collaborative research on child maltreatment, school performance, and problem behavior from which the paper in this issue is drawn.

  • Kristen A. Myers is a doctoral student in sociology at North Carolina State University. Her areas of interest are inequality, work, industry and organizations.

  • Matthew C. Johnsen received his doctorate in sociology from North Carolina State University in 1993. He is currently a post-doctoral fellow at the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

Abstract

This paper adds to an accumulating body of research on the risk of delinquency among maltreated children. We use a prospective research design to address the following questions: (1) To what extent are maltreated children at risk of delinquency? (2) Is their rate of delinquency greater than that of two court-aged, nonmaltreated comparison samples: impoverished children and school children in general? (3) What is the effect of maltreatment net of age, race, gender, and family structure? (4) Is type of maltreatment associated with specific types of juvenile offenses? Maltreated children have higher rates of delinquency complaints than nonmaltreated school and impoverished children, but the effects diminish considerably when the demographic and family structure variables are controlled. In the maltreatment-school comparison, an overall maltreatment effect remains for complaints in general and status offenses, but not for property or violent offenses. Maltreated children are significantly different from nonmaltreated poor children for status offenses only. Specific forms of maltreatment are not especially predictive of any offense type. Generally, we conclude that the maltreatment-delinquency relationship has been exaggerated in previous research.

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