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, 14 (4), 316-29

Pathways to Poly-Victimization


Pathways to Poly-Victimization

David Finkelhor et al. Child Maltreat.


Some children, whom we have labeled poly-victims, experience very high levels of victimizations of different types. This article finds support for a conceptual model suggesting that there may be four distinct pathways to becoming such a poly-victim: (a) residing in a dangerous community, (b) living in a dangerous family, (c) having a chaotic, multiproblem family environment, or (d) having emotional problems that increase risk behavior, engender antagonism, and compromise the capacity to protect oneself. It uses three waves of the Developmental Victimization Survey, a nationally representative sample of children aged 2-17 years. All four hypothesized pathways showed significant independent association with poly-victim onset. For the younger children, the symptom score representing emotional problems was the only significant predictor. For the older children, the other three pathway variables were significant predictors--dangerous communities, dangerous families, and problem families--but not symptom score. Poly-victimization onset was also disproportionately likely to occur in the year prior to children's 7th and 15th birthday, corresponding roughly to the entry into elementary school and high school. The identification of such pathways and the ages of high onset should help practitioners design programs for preventing vulnerable children from becoming poly-victims.

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