JOURNAL ARTICLE

Adolescent neglect, juvenile delinquency and the risk of recidivism

Joseph P Ryan, Abigail B Williams, Mark E Courtney
Journal of Youth and Adolescence 2013, 42 (3): 454-65
23334336
Victims of child abuse and neglect are at an increased risk of involvement with the juvenile justice and adult correctional systems. Yet, little is known about the continuation and trajectories of offending beyond initial contact with law enforcement. Neglect likely plays a critical role in continued offending as parental monitoring, parental rejection and family relationships are instrumental in explaining juvenile conduct problems. This study sought to determine whether neglect is associated with recidivism for moderate and high risk juvenile offenders in Washington State. Statewide risk assessments and administrative records for child welfare, juvenile justice, and adult corrections were analyzed. The sample was diverse (24 % female, 13 % African American, 8 % Hispanic, 5 % Native American) and included all moderate and high risk juvenile offenders screened by juvenile probation between 2004 and 2007 (n = 19,833). Official records from child protection were used to identify juvenile offenders with a history of child neglect and to identify juvenile offenders with an ongoing case of neglect. Event history models were developed to estimate the risk of subsequent offending. Adolescents with an ongoing case neglect were significantly more likely to continue offending as compared with youth with no official history of neglect. These findings remain even after controlling for a wide range of family, peer, academic, mental health, and substance abuse covariates. Interrupting trajectories of offending is a primary focus of juvenile justice. The findings of the current study indicate that ongoing dependency issues play a critical role in explaining the outcomes achieved for adolescents in juvenile justice settings. The implications for improved collaboration between child welfare and juvenile justice are discussed.

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