This research examines developmental pathways related to the origins of child maltreatment which includes neglect, as well as physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. There is growing evidence that maltreatment is reproduced across the generations and that maltreatment victims are at increased risk for engaging in maltreating behaviors. Unfortunately, there is little information about the mediating pathways that might provide an explanation for why maltreatment begets maltreatment. We examine two developmental pathways that may serve as bridges between maltreatment victimization and maltreatment perpetration: involvement in adolescent problem behaviors and experiencing precocious transitions to adulthood. Using prospective longitudinal data from the Rochester Youth Development Study, we show a significant relationship between maltreatment victimization and maltreatment perpetration. Adolescent problem behaviors (e.g.., alcohol use, delinquency, and aggression) and precocious transitions (e.g.., dropping out of school and independent living), as well as experiencing multiple transitions and multiple problem behaviors serve as mediators of this intergenerational relationship. We discuss the theoretical and policy implications of these results.
Terence P. Thornberry
Distinguished University Professor
Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice
University of Maryland
Founding Principal Investigator of the Rochester Youth Development Study, a three-generation panel study begun in 1986 to examine the causes and consequences of delinquency and other antisocial behaviors.