The purpose of this study was to examine two sets of children -- those alleged dependent and neglected and those alleged delinquent -- in order to better understand the influence of maltreatment on delinquent conduct. The population of dependent and neglect cases was selected so that the researchers could obtain a picture of children from their first complaint of dependency and neglect to their 18th birthday. This prospective look allowed the researchers to study children who had aged out of the juvenile system and provided the maximum range of dispositions and placements. The population of delinquent children, born in the time frame of the dependency cohort, allowed researchers to take a retrospective look at a child's history in order to determine if dependency and neglect was present as a risk factor.
More specifically, the researchers focused upon following seven questions in this study:
- What is the relationship, if any, between the frequency, severity and duration of maltreatment and the different types of delinquent offenses?
- What is the relationship, if any, between the type of maltreatment and severity of delinquent offenses?
- What is the relationship, if any, between the presence of multiple types of maltreatment and different offending types?
- What is the relationship, if any, between a child's order of birth and risk of maltreatment?
- What is the relationship, if any, between the number of out-of-home placements and risk of offending and the types of offending?
- Is referral to juvenile court for maltreatment a spurious factor in delinquent conduct?
- What is the relationship, if any, between age of onset of delinquent conduct and frequency and severity of offenses?
The researchers in a Mid-South county tested the conventional wisdom that there is a greater likelihood that a child who is maltreated will become delinquent. Data were
collected from official court records. Maltreatment in this study was defined as a child, under the age of 18, who was adjudicated dependent and neglected or in need of Protective Services because of neglect, physical abuse and/or sexual abuse.
The first group of children was selected from the dependency and neglected cases filed with the Juvenile Court in 1984 and 1985. The 1984-1985 Non-Pooled Dependency and Neglect Cohort Data (Part 1) contains a total of 1,062 cases, representing 1,062 alleged
dependent and neglected children and their siblings. The 1984-1985 Pooled Dependency and Neglect Cohort Data (Part 3) includes 4,474 cases which correspond to up to 20 complaints for each of the 1,062 alleged dependent and neglected children.
The second group was selected from delinquency petitions of children 16 and 17 years old filed in the years 2000 and 2001. The 2000-2001 Non-Pooled Delinquency Cohort Data (Part 2) contains a total of 549 cases, representing 549 delinquent children. The 2000-2001 Pooled Delinquency Cohort Data (Part 4) includes 2,076 cases which correspond to up to 20 complaints for each of the 549 delinquent children.
For Part 1 and Part 3, dependency and neglect group data from 1984 and 1985 were provided to the principal investigators in an electronic data file and subjected to power analysis to identify the appropriate sample size. The total population of dependent and neglect cases was 1,385 in 1984 and 1,502 in 1985. The researchers drew a random sample of 250 children's cases by case identification number (Id) for each of the years 1984 and 1985. The Court's electronic file coding system allowed the researchers to identify the first dependency and neglect complaint for each child's case drawn in the sample. Only those cases identified as the child's first dependent and neglect complaint were retained from the sample. As a result, the children selected in the dependency and neglect cohort represented 347 families. Siblings of the children selected from the sample were then included in the study group which expanded the dependency and neglect cohort to a final sample size of 1,062 children (Part 1) and Part 3 has summary information for up to 20 complaints for each child.
For Part 2 and Part 4, the delinquency cohort was selected from the universe of all children who were 16 and 17 years old coming before the court charged with a delinquent offense in the years 2000 and 2001. It was hypothesized that those children, born during the time frames of the children in the dependency/neglect sample, would also have been the subjects of dependency and neglect.
There were 550 juvenile records selected from a random power analysis of 5,506 legal records. One child was also in the dependency and neglect cohort and was eliminated from the delinquency cohort leaving 549 children in the sample (Part 2) and Part 4 has summary information for up to 20 complaints for each child.
Part 1 and Part 3: All children who had dependency and neglected cases filed in the Juvenile Court in a major Mid-South county in 1984 and 1985 and their siblings. Part 2 and Part 4: All children who were 16 and 17 years old coming before the Juvenile Court in a major Mid-South county charged with a delinquent offense in the years 2000 and 2001.
Part 1 and Part 2: individual. Part 3 and Part 4: individual by complaint for up to 20 complaints.
Official records from a juvenile court in a Mid-South county.
administrative records data
The 1984-1985 Non-Pooled Dependency and Neglect Cohort Data (Part 1) contains a total of 11 and the 2000-2001 Non-Pooled Delinquency Cohort Data (Part 2) contains a total of 10 demographics and summary count information variables. Specifically, Part 1 and Part 2 each contain the following ten variables: id, gender, race, age at first delinquency complaint, age at first maltreatment complaint, number of maltreatment complaints, number of changes in placement for complaints #1-#20, and total number of low, moderate, and high severity delinquency offenses. Additionally, Part 1 contains a family number variable.
The 1984-1985 Pooled Dependency and Neglect Cohort Data (Part 3) and the 2000-2001 Pooled Delinquency Cohort Data (Part 4) contain a total of 68 and 58 variables, respectively, including demographics and information on delinquent charges, complaints of maltreatment, placements, and dispositions for each child. Specifically, Part 3 and Part 4 each contain the following variables: id, pooled placement complaints #1-#20, pooled severity rating of delinquent offenses for charge/complaint #1-#20, maltreatment variables (prevalence of maltreatment, duration of maltreatment), total number of low, moderate, and high severity delinquency offenses, number of changes in placement for complaints #1-#20, gender variables, race variables, total number of delinquency complaints, family placement variables, and placement complaints #1-#20. Part 3 also contains variables relating to the types of maltreatment (none, neglect only, physical abuse only, physical abuse and neglect, sexual abuse only, sexual abuse and neglect, sexual and physical abuse, sexual and physical abuse and neglect). While Part 4 does not contain the type of maltreatment variables, it contains dichotomous maltreatment variables relating to whether the subject has ever been maltreated (yes/no), which accounts for the difference in the number of variables between Part 3 and Part 4.