Which maltreated children are at greatest risk of aggressive and criminal behavior? An examination of maltreatment dimensions and cumulative risk

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Child Abuse & Neglect, 69, 49-61

This paper explores the well-documented relationship between child maltreatment and aggressive and criminal behavior, specifically examining several dimensions of maltreatment and cumulative child and family risk. Using data from the provincially representative Ontario Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect (OIS-2013), this paper utilizes a developmental lens to examine whether maltreatment dimensions and cumulative risk can differentiate maltreated young people who exhibit aggressive and criminal behaviors and those who do not.

A total unweighted sample of 1837 substantiated maltreatment investigations was examined in this analysis using chi-square, t-test, and logistic regression. The findings indicate that 13% of maltreated children and youth served by the Ontario child welfare system exhibited aggression and 6% of maltreated adolescents were involved in the youth justice system. Aggressive children and youth were more likely to experience severe and co-occurring forms of maltreatment and to experience higher levels of cumulative child risk. In adolescence, youth exhibiting aggressive and/or criminal behavior commonly were investigated because of neglect, specifically because their caregivers were no longer willing or able to remain in a caregiving role. Implications for child welfare policy and practice are discussed.

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