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Child Maltreat. 2009 Nov;14(4):344-55. doi: 10.1177/1077559509332264. Epub 2009 Mar 2.

Does out-of-home placement mediate the relationship between child maltreatment and adult criminality?

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  • 1John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York, USA.


Existing research on child welfare interventions as mediators of the criminal consequences of child maltreatment has focused on juvenile delinquency rather than adult criminality. This study uses a prospective sample of 772 maltreated youth to examine out-of-home placement as a mediator of adult criminality. Arrest data were collected from official records when the full sample was a mean age of 31.8, having ample opportunity for involvement with the criminal justice system. Overall, out-of-home placement showed a neutral or slightly positive effect on adult criminality compared to no placement, consistent with earlier findings. However, prior delinquency and placement instability were significant risk factors for adult criminality. Gender, not race, was identified as a significant moderator of the relationship between placement and adult criminality, with different patterns of response to placement for males and females. Thus, whether placement experiences influence adult criminal consequences of child maltreatment might depend on prior delinquency, placement stability, and gender.

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