Causes and Effects of Child Abuse - Maltreated Girls Who Become Offenders
arrested justice widom violence
Cathy Spatz Widom studied a group of girls who had experienced neglect and physical and sexual abuse from
|Involvement in criminality by race, in percent|
|Type of Arrest||Abused and Neglected Group (n = 900)||Comparison Group (n = 667)|
|SOURCE: Cathy S. Widom and Michael G. Maxfield, "Exhibit 4: Involvement in Criminality, by Race, in Percent" in An Update on the "Cycle of Violence," U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, February 2001|
ages zero to eleven through young adulthood ("Childhood Victimization and the Derailment of Girls and Women to the Criminal Justice System," Research on Women and Girls in the Justice System, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DC, September 2000). Widom found that abused and neglected girls were almost twice as likely to have been arrested as juveniles (20%), compared with 11.4% of a matched control group of nonabused girls, and almost twice as likely as the control group to be arrested as adults (28.5% versus 15.9%). Additionally, the maltreated girls were also more than twice as likely (8.2%) as the nonmaltreated girls (3.7%) to have been arrested for violent crimes. Widom, however, noted that although abused and neglected girls were at increased risk for criminal behavior, about 70% of the maltreated girls did not become criminals.
Abused and neglected girls who committed status offenses as minors tended to be arrested as adults (49% compared with 36% of the nonabused girls). Status offenses are acts that are illegal only when committed by minors: for example, drinking alcohol, skipping school, or violating curfews.
Widom, together with Peter Lambert and Daniel Nagin, found that 8% of the maltreated girls developed antisocial and criminal lifestyles that carried over to adulthood ("Does Childhood Victimization Alter Developmental Trajectories of Criminal Careers?," paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Criminology, Washington, DC, November 1998). Among this group, nearly two of five (38%) had been arrested for status offenses as juveniles, but a larger percentage had been arrested for violence (46%) and property crimes (54%). Almost another third (32%) had been arrested for drug crimes. None of the girls in the control group exhibited these tendencies.
|Percentage of child abuse victims later arrested for violent offenses, by type of abuse|
|Abuse Group||Number of subjects||Percentage Arrested for Violent Offense|
|SOURCE: Cathy S. Widom and Michael G. Maxfield, "Exhibit 5: Does Only Violence Beget Violence?" in An Update on the "Cycle of Violence", U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, February 2001|
|Physical Abuse Only||76||21.1|
|Sexual Abuse Only||125||8.8|