Long-term outcomes of young adults exposed to maltreatment: the role of educational experiences in promoting resilience to crime and violence in early adulthood

Carolyn A Smith, Aely Park, Timothy O Ireland, Laura Elwyn, Terence P Thornberry
Journal of Interpersonal Violence 2013, 28 (1): 121-56
This study investigates whether positive educational experiences in midadolescence mitigate the impact of exposure to substantiated maltreatment and reduces young adult antisocial behavior. While there is theoretical and empirical support for the mediating or moderating role of educational experiences on maltreatment and antisocial outcomes, few prospective studies exist. In this exploratory study, data are from the Rochester Youth Development Study (RYDS), a longitudinal panel study of 1,000 adolescents. The original sample included 73% males, and 85% African American or Hispanic youth of whom about 20% were maltreated. Measures in this study are from a combination of interview data and official records collected through age 23. Outcomes include self-reported crime and violence, arrest, and partner violence perpetration. Educational variables include midadolescent self-report of high school graduation, educational aspiration, college expectation, school commitment, teacher attachment, self-reported grades, school GPA, attendance, and an additive index of all school assets. Multivariate path analysis controlled for gender, race/ethnicity, poverty, and early antisocial behavior. Path analysis examined whether educational experiences mediated the impact of maltreatment on antisocial outcomes. Although maltreatment was significantly predictive of criminal and violent behaviors, it only was weakly associated with educational experiences. The impact of maltreatment on arrest was weakly mediated (reduced) by educational GPA and by high school graduation. The additive index also mediated the impact of maltreatment on crime and violence. Maltreatment's impact on partner violence was also weakly mediated by school GPA. Interaction terms were used to test for moderation: only one significant effect was found: school GPA protects maltreated youth from perpetration of partner violence as young adults. Although there are few significant effects in a number of models, the research is consistent with a focus on promoting school achievement and completion among urban youth in general, in conjunction with addressing earlier antisocial behavior problems.

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