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The link between child maltreatment and juvenile delinquency has been well established, yet the underlying mechanisms through which the relationship may be explained are not very well understood. Although sexualized behaviors have been most studied in the context of sexual abuse, increasing evidence suggests that a broader conceptualization is warranted. Therefore, the current study tested sexualized behaviors as a mediator in the relation between child maltreatment of any type and delinquent behaviors using structural equation modeling. This study used a multi-site prospective sample of 804 children who were at high-risk for experiencing maltreatment and part of the Longitudinal Studies of Child Abuse and Neglect consortium. This study found that reported maltreatment was related to delinquency, and sexualized behaviors partially mediated the relationship between child maltreatment and juvenile delinquency. Specifically, children with more maltreatment reports before age 8 had increased sexualized behaviors at age 8, which in turn predicted greater delinquent behaviors at age 12. These results suggest that in addition to maltreatment experiences, early sexualized behaviors (i.e., at age 8) may also be markers for subsequent delinquent behaviors (i.e., at age 12). Researchers and clinicians should work to further clarify the connections among child maltreatment, sexualized behaviors, and delinquency.
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- Sexualized Behaviors Partially Mediate the Link between Maltreatment and Delinquent Behaviors
Melissa T. Merrick
Alan J. Litrownik
Tisha R. A. Wiley
Mark D. Everson
- Springer US