Youthful Males as Offenders and Victims of Abuse: The Treatment Paradox

Tina Maschi, Rutgers University - New Brunswick
Nancy Wolff, Rutgers University - New Brunswick

Research shows that aggressive and deviant behavior among adolescent males may be partially a result of their earlier exposure to trauma. Being a victim of violence, in particular, may later manifest itself as antisocial behavior. This paper begins by exploring the relationship between trauma and juvenile delinquency. A nationally representative sample of 2,018 adolesent males is then used to examine the effect of different types of trauma (e.g., begin a victim of violence, witness to violence, and experiencing stressful life events) on delinquency among adolescent males. This study found that exposure to violence (being a victim and/or witness to violence) and experiences stressful life events have a direct effect on violent delinquency but the are partially mediated by negative affect (anger) and delinquent peer exposure. Stressful life events had a direct effect on property offending but was also partially mediated by anger and delinquent peer exposure. Exposure to violence was found to have no direct effect on property offending behavior and fully mediated by delinquent peer exposure. These findings have important implications for treatment in correctional and detention settings. Adolescent males, while being held accountable for their offending behavior, need behavioral health treatment that responds to their experiences as victims, unresolved feelings of anger, and involvement in delinquent peer cultures.

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Updated 05/20/2006