An Examination of the Mediation Pathways From Child Maltreatment to Antisocial Behavior in Youth

Todd I. Herrenkohl, University of Washington
Bu Huang, University of Washington
Emiko A. Tajima, University of Washington
Steven D. Whitney, University of Washington

There is strong evidence that child maltreatment increases risk for adolescent problem behaviors, including delinquency, substance use, and violence. Researchers now must turn to investigating the mediating and moderating mechanisms that link child abuse to these later behaviors. Using data from the Lehigh Longitudinal Study we previously investigated several factors as possible mediators of physical child abuse in the prediction violence among adolescents. With hypotheses drawn from several social developmental theories, structural equation models examined the degree to which abuse was mediated in the prediction of violence through youths' bonds to family, commitment to school, involvement with antisocial peers, and attitudes about violence. The model included a measure of family socioeconomic status, as well as youths' gender and age as controls on violence. Findings suggest that abuse (whether measured prospectively or retrospectively) is heavily mediated in its prediction of later violence and that a sizeable proportion of the variance in violence is accounted for. Extending these earlier analyses, this study will examine a fuller array of individual/psychological, family, school, and peer variables as possible mediators of abuse on violence, delinquency, and substance use and explore possible gender differences in prediction models. Implications for theory, policy, and practice will be discussed.

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Updated 05/20/2006