Statement of problem: Childhood maltreatment is known to be a risk factor for a range of later problems, but much less is known about adolescent maltreatment. The present study aims to investigate the impact of adolescent maltreatment on antisocial behavior, while controlling for prior levels of problem behavior as well as sociodemographic characteristics.
Methods: Data are from the Rochester Youth Development Study, a cohort study of the development of problem behaviors in a sample of 1,000 urban youth followed from age 13 into adulthood. Subjects include 68% African American, 17% Hispanic, and 15% White youth. This analysis includes a maximum of 884 subjects, of whom 9.3% had substantiated maltreatment reports in adolescence. Among the maltreated adolescents, 14 experienced sex abuse, 36 experienced physical abuse, and 32 were neglected or emotionally abused. Outcomes explored in late adolescence (ages 16-18) and young adulthood (ages 20-22) include arrest, self-reported general and violent offending, and illicit drug use. Control variables include prior levels of these outcomes as well as sociodemographic characteristics like poverty, parent education, and caregiver changes.
Results: Logistic regression analysis determined that experiencing any substantiated maltreatment during adolescence increases the odds of arrest, general and violent offending, and illicit drug use in young adulthood, even controlling for sociodemographic characteristics and prior levels of problem behavior. Different types of adolescent maltreatment, including neglect, appear to produce similar adverse behavioral consequences.
Conclusions: Adolescent maltreatment necessitates increased attention in view of its enduring and potentially wide-ranging impact on the life span.