Individuals victimized by child abuse and neglect are more likely than people who were not maltreated to engage in juvenile delinquency, adult criminality, and violent behavior. However, while the risk is higher, most abused and neglected children will not become delinquent, experience adolescent problem behaviors, or become involved in violent crime.
Child Maltreatment and Adult Criminal Behavior: Does Criminal Thinking Explain the Association? (PDF - 363 KB)
Cuadra, Jaffe, Thomas, & DiLillo (2014)
Child Abuse & Neglect, 38
Discusses criminal thinking styles and their links between criminal behaviors and child sexual abuse, physical abuse, and physical neglect. Findings show associations between child sexual abuse and sexual offenses as an adult and child physical abuse/neglect and proactive and reactive criminal thinking styles.
A Comparison of Female Delinquents: The Impact of Child Maltreatment Histories on Risk and Need Characteristics Among a Missouri Sample (PDF - 207 KB)
Dannerbeck-Janku, Peters, & Perkins (2014)
Shows the characteristics and behaviors of young women involved in the justice system as both victims of child maltreatment and as perpetrators of juvenile offending behaviors. The study finds that parent practices have a significant impact on antisocial behavior in children and can affect a child's propensity to engage in violent behavior.
Longitudinal Examination of Peer and Partner Influences on Gender-Specific Pathways From Child Abuse to Adult Crime
Lee, Herrenkohl, Jung, Skinner, & Klika (2015)
Child Abuse & Neglect, 47
Examines developmental pathways that link child abuse to adult antisocial behavior that predicts adult crime. The study also found that sexual abuse predicts adolescent antisocial behavior for males; for females, the negative developmental outcomes occur later in life.
Pathways Between Child Maltreatment and Adult Criminal Involvement
National Institute of Justice (2017)
Examines findings that histories of childhood physical and emotional abuse increase the risk of adulthood crime. The research finds that childhood physical and emotional abuse often results in antisocial behavior during childhood and adolescence and in adult relationships with antisocial romantic partners and peers in adulthood, which increase the risk of criminal involvement.
A Prospective Examination of Whether Childhood Sexual Abuse Predicts Subsequent Sexual Offending
Widom & Massey (2015)
Provides new findings that question the "widespread belief" that sexually abused children are uniquely at risk to become sex offenders. The article suggests that early intervention programs should target children with histories of physical abuse and neglect. They also indicate that existing policies and practices specifically directed at future risk for sex offending for sexually abused children may warrant reevaluation.