The causal impact of childhood-limited maltreatment and adolescent maltreatment on early adult adjustment

J Adolesc Health. 2010 Apr;46(4):359-65. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2009.09.011. Epub 2010 Jan 4.


Purpose: We use full-matching propensity score models to test whether developmentally specific measures of maltreatment, in particular childhood-limited maltreatment versus adolescent maltreatment, are causally related to involvement in crime, substance use, health-risking sex behaviors, and internalizing problems during early adulthood.

Methods: Our design includes 907 participants (72% male) in the Rochester Youth Development Study, a community sample followed from age 14 to age 31 with 14 assessments, including complete maltreatment histories from Child Protective Services records.

Results: After balancing the data sets, childhood-limited maltreatment is significantly related to drug use, problem drug use, depressive symptoms, and suicidal thoughts. Maltreatment during adolescence has a significant effect on a broader range of outcomes: official arrest or incarceration, self-reported criminal offending, violent crime, alcohol use, problem alcohol use, drug use, problem drug use, risky sex behaviors, self-reported sexually transmitted disease diagnosis, and suicidal thoughts.

Conclusions: The causal effect of childhood-limited maltreatment is focused on internalizing problems, whereas adolescent maltreatment has a stronger and more pervasive effect on later adjustment. Increased vigilance by mandated reporters, especially for adolescent victims of maltreatment, along with provision of appropriate services, may prevent a wide range of subsequent adjustment problems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / diagnosis
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / psychology
  • Causality
  • Child Abuse / psychology
  • Child Abuse / statistics & numerical data*
  • Child Behavior Disorders / diagnosis
  • Child Behavior Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Child Behavior Disorders / psychology
  • Comorbidity
  • Crime / psychology
  • Crime / statistics & numerical data*
  • Crime Victims / psychology
  • Crime Victims / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control
  • Juvenile Delinquency / psychology
  • Juvenile Delinquency / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Risk Factors
  • Substance-Related Disorders / diagnosis
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult