Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Impact of Childhood Maltreatment on Recidivism in Youth Offenders

The purpose of the study is to examine the impact of childhood maltreatment on youth offender recidivism in Singapore. The study used case file coding on a sample of 3,744 youth offenders, among whom about 6% had a childhood maltreatment history. The results showed that the Youth Level of Service/Case Management Inventory 2.0 (YLS/CMI 2.0) ratings significantly predicted recidivism for nonmaltreated youth offenders, but not for maltreated youth offenders. Using propensity score matching, the result from a Cox regression analysis showed that maltreated youth offenders were 1.38 times as likely as their nonmaltreated counterparts to reoffend with a follow-up period of up to 7.4 years. The results implied that the YLS/CMI 2.0 measures were insufficient for assessing the risk for recidivism for the maltreated youth offenders, and that other information is needed to help assessors use the professional override when making the overall risk ratings.

...Specifically, the present study showed that the recidivism rate for maltreated offenders was higher at 57% as compared with 38% for nonmaltreated offenders. This pattern of higher recidivism rate among maltreated offenders was similar to previous studies. For example, the recidivism rate was 56% versus 41% among U.S. youth who were involved in both child protection and juvenile probation services as compared with those delinquency cases only (). These results suggest that youth offenders with a childhood maltreatment history are at higher risk of reoffending than those without.

The current study also showed that the maltreated youth offenders had different profiles. For example, the maltreated offenders were arrested for the first time about half a year younger on average than the nonmaltreated offenders. This is consistent with previous research in that childhood maltreatment may “speed up the age” when an individual becomes involved in criminal activities (). In addition, previous studies have found that earlier engagement in criminal activities is one of the strongest predictors of recidivism (; ; ; ). Prevention programs can thus focus on dealing with the youth’s early entry into the juvenile justice system, especially for the maltreated children, by promoting effective parenting skills and increasing family supervision (). It is also important that existing policies relating to youth services ensure that these maltreated youth are promptly provided with the relevant treatment services to address trauma-related problems.

On top of the differences pertaining to personal traits, the current research showed that more maltreated youth offenders were from a background with household and parental problems. These findings suggest that children from certain families are more likely to be maltreated and such differences in their background may confound the true relationship between childhood maltreatment and recidivism. Unlike most of the previous studies that gauge childhood maltreatment effect without a proper control group, the present study used nonmaltreated youth offenders with similar backgrounds as control. Controlling for other variables and differences in the follow-up period, the maltreated youth offenders were 1.38 times as likely to reoffend as the nonmaltreated offenders. In other words, childhood maltreatment was a unique contributor of youth offender recidivism even after controlling for their YLS/CMI 2.0 Overall Risk Ratings, as well as another 15 risk factors relating to their personal characteristics, household environment, and parental background.

There is a possibility that maltreated youth offenders might have developed distinct characteristics that made them more prone to future criminal behavior. Specifically, maltreated youth offenders had significantly higher levels of criminogenic needs in terms of antisocial personality. This suggests that the link between childhood maltreatment and delinquency may be mediated by personality traits... 

Below:  Survival curve for maltreated and nonmaltreated youth offenders with different risk levels of recidivism in the full sample

Full article at:

Joseph Teck Ling Goh, Ministry of Social and Family Development;
Dongdong Li, Centre for Research on Rehabilitation and Protection, Ministry of Social and Family Development, 512 Thomson Road, #12-00 MSF Building, Singapore 298136, Singapore; e-mail: gs.vog.fsm@gnodgnod_il.

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