Childhood victimization and crime victimization

Jared Kean McIntyre, Cathy Spatz Widom
Journal of Interpersonal Violence 2011, 26 (4): 640-63
The purpose of this study is to determine whether abused and neglected children are at increased risk for subsequent crime victimization. We ask four basic questions: (a) Does a history of child abuse/neglect increase one's risk of physical, sexual, and property crime victimization? (b) Do lifestyle characteristics (prostitution, running away, homelessness, criminal history, drug abuse, and alcohol abuse) increase a person's risk for crime victimization? (c) Do lifestyle characteristics mediate the relationship between child abuse/ neglect and crime victimization? (d) Do these relationships vary by a person's sex or race/ethnicity? Using data from a prospective cohort design study, children with documented histories of physical and sexual abuse and/or neglect (n = 497) were matched with nonabused and nonneglected children (n = 395), followed up, and interviewed in middle adulthood (approximate age 39.5). Logistic and ordinary least square regressions were conducted to assess risk for crime victimization and test for mediation. Child abuse and/ or neglect increased a person's risk for physical (OR = 2.56, p < .001) and sexual (OR = 2.28, p < .001) but not for property crime victimization. For the sample overall, running away served as a partial mediator between child abuse and neglect and physical and sexual crime victimization. In addition, results revealed sex and race/ethnicity differences in patterns of mediation. Implications of these findings for research and practice are discussed.

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