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Beatings, not sexual abuse, turn child into a criminal 

January 7 2003

Physically abused and neglected children are far more likely to end up with a criminal record, researchers say.

On the other hand, sexually abused children are less likely to offend later in life, the study, released yesterday by the Australian Institute of Criminology, has found.

Researchers from Griffith University, Queensland, studied more than 41,000 children born in the state in 1983 until they turned 17. They found a quarter of the boys abused and 11 per cent of girls went on to offend.

One of the report's authors, Dr Anna Stewart, said the study was unique in Australia as it followed a group from birth, and the results confirmed overseas studies.

"It's confirmed what a lot of the overseas findings have shown that ... if you're putting the resources into crime prevention, they should go into early intervention. We need to intervene early and we need to intervene well."

The criminology institute's director, Dr Adam Graycar, said more resources must be directed to abused children to ensure maltreatment was not repeated.

"The maltreatment of children is a scourge on our society, a thoroughly inexcusable practice that unfortunately our protective and preventive measures have had little overall success in combating."

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