From Child Maltreatment to Violent Offending: An Examination of Mixed-Gender and Gender-Specific Models

James Topitzes, Joshua P. Mersky, Arthur J. Reynolds

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68 Scopus citations


Research suggests that child maltreatment predicts juvenile violence, but it is uncertain whether the effects of victimization persist into adulthood or differ across gender. Furthermore, we know little about the mechanisms underlying the victim-perpetrator cycle for males and females. Consequently, this study analyzed associations between child maltreatment and a number of adult measures of violent offending within mixed-gender and gender-specific models. Along with main effects, the study directly tested the moderating effects of gender on the maltreatment-violence link and analyzed theory-informed gender-specific mediators. Data were derived from the Chicago Longitudinal Study, a panel investigation of 1,539 low-income minority participants born in 1979 or 1980. Child welfare, juvenile court, and criminal court records informed the study's explanatory and outcome measures. Prospectively collected covariate and mediator measures originated with parent, teacher, and self-reports along with several administrative sources. Results indicated that child maltreatment, ages 0 to 11, significantly predicted all study indicators of violence in the full sample and most study outcomes in the male and female subsamples. In no instance did gender moderate the maltreatment-violence association. Late childhood/early adolescence environmental instability, childhood externalizing behaviors, and adolescent peer social skills fully mediated the maltreatment-violence nexus among males. Adolescent externalizing behavior partially mediated the relationship of interest among females. Evidence also indicated that internalizing processes protected females who had been maltreated in childhood against perpetrating violence later in life. Implications of results are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2322-2347
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Interpersonal Violence
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: Chicago Longitudinal Study grants from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (No. R01HD34294-06) and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (No. 20030035) supported the research reported herein. The Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education provided additional support with a dissertation grant (No. R305C050055) administered through the University of Wisconsin–Madison.


  • child abuse
  • violent offenders
  • women offenders


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