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Sexual Abuse, Family Violence, and Female Delinquency: Findings From a Longitudinal Study

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The current study examines the effects of three forms of childhood victimization on self-reported delinquency and aggression in adolescent girls. These analyses are based on a longitudinal sample of 141 mother-daughter pairs participating in a study about marital violence and child development. When the children were school aged, mothers and children provided reports describing (a) child exposure to marital violence, (b) escalated physical abuse against the child, and (c) child sexual abuse. Children were followed up into adolescence and re-interviewed. Self-reports of delinquency (violent and nonviolent), running away, and violence against parents were collected. Results indicate that out of the three forms of victimization, child sexual abuse emerged as the strongest predictor of girls' violent and nonviolent criminal behavior. Girls with a history of physical abuse in childhood were most likely to assault their parents. Witnessing marital violence failed to contribute further to delinquency, beyond the adverse association with childhood sexual abuse. Findings highlight a unique avenue for delinquency in girls via childhood sexual exploitation.
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Keywords: ABUSE; FAMILY VIOLENCE; JUVENILE OFFENDERS; SEXUAL ABUSE

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2003

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