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Pathways from child maltreatment to juvenile offending

Anna Stewart, Susan Dennison and Elissa Waterson 
ISBN 0 642 24282 8 ; ISSN 0817-8542 
October 2002 


This important study demonstrates a direct path from child maltreatment to juvenile offending. 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.

This study focuses on the 41,700 children born in Queensland in 1983. It finds that about 10 per cent of these children came into contact with the Department of Families by the time they were 17 years old because of a child protection matter. About five per cent of those in the cohort had a court appearance for a proven offence. Many, but not all, of these children fitted into both categories (that is, coming into contact with the Department as well as having a court appearance).

The authors examine 11 predictive factors for youth offending, and find that children who suffer maltreatment are more likely to offend. Physical abuse and neglect are significant predictive factors, but sexual and emotional abuse are not. 

This study shows that working with large administrative data sets can yield critically important information for policy-making, and can also inform practice. The policy ramifications of these data show that with appropriate analysis we can move to better levels of understanding risk and improved deployment of scarce resources.

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