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2006Research Conference | June 15–16

This conference highlighted the work of invited speakers, independent researchers who have received grant funds from the Institute of Education Sciences, and trainees supported through predoctoral training grants and postdoctoral fellowships. The presentations are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Department of Education or the Institute of Education Sciences.
Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill
400 New Jersey Avenue, N.W.
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School Factors as Mediators of the Relation between Child Maltreatment and Adult Crime: An Examination of a Long-Term Developmental Model

James Dimitri Topitzes

Abstract: This investigation examines the longitudinal association between childhood maltreatment and adult crime and tests whether school-based mediators help explain this relation. Research questions guiding the study include the following: (1) is childhood maltreatment significantly associated with general and severe indicators of adult crime in the Chicago Longitudinal Study (CLS); (2) is childhood maltreatment significantly associated with indicators of school performance and educational attainment in the CLS, and (3) if the above relations exist do school-related variables mediate the maltreatment/crime connection, controlling for delinquency as an additional mechanism?

The CLS is a quasi-experimental study of the impact of a high-quality preschool program on academic and psycho-social outcomes. The study follows a Chicago-area cohort of students who completed kindergarten in 1986. The longitudinal sample currently includes 1,369 respondents who lived in the Chicago area through age 10.

Probit analyses revealed that official measures of childhood maltreatment are significantly related to general and severe indicators of adult crime, controlling for salient sociodemographic characteristics. Maltreatment is also significantly related, in the expected direction, to grade reading 8 achievement, grades 6-7 acting out behavior, and high school graduation. Hierarchical regression indicated that these school-related measures mediate maltreatment's relation to all adult crime indicators in the study, reducing the main effect by magnitudes ranging from 38-63%.

The main effect results illuminate enduring effects of maltreatment and recommend prevention and early intervention treatment strategies. The mediation findings identify school-related variables as possible catalysts of the maltreatment/crime link, highlighting a potential benefit of school-based interventions for maltreated children.