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Incidence of Child Abuse and the Relationship to Criminality: Literature Review

NCJ Number
Robert H. Langworthy; Peter Crum; Allan R. Barnes; Richard W. Curtis
Date Published
June 1998
14 pages
This document focuses on the relationship between child abuse and adult criminality.
This literature review is part of a larger study sponsored by the Alaska Department of Corrections that addresses the relationship between child abuse and adult criminality. The focus is on two types of studies: incidence studies and relational studies. The incidence studies focus on the incidence of child abuse in the general population and the incidence of child abuse reported by inmates. The relational studies explore the relationship between child abuse and subsequent adult criminality and/or juvenile delinquency. A review of three surveys by the Gallop organization shows that somewhere between 1 in 10 and 1 in 5 children will experience some form of abuse. A survey of literature isolated six studies of adult prisoners that show between 30 and 40 percent of male inmates having child physical abuse histories, between 10 and 15 percent having child sexual abuse histories, and about 15 percent being neglected as children. Studies in Oregon (1993) and Alaska (1997) show that about 70 percent of incarcerated women have histories of child abuse. Neither study provided information about types of abuse (physical, sexual, or neglect). A review of studies that compared the adult criminal histories of people abused as children to those that were not was conducted. In some cases, these studies permitted attribution of criminal histories to abusive pasts. Though there is evidence that abuse and neglect experienced in childhood increases the probability of serious juvenile delinquency and adult criminality it also is apparent that the criminogenic effects of abuse are usually overcome. This suggests that there is a significant role for treatment. 9 footnotes, 52 references