Academic journal article Journal of Juvenile Justice

The Impact of Child Protective Service History on Reoffending in a New Mexico Juvenile Justice Population

Academic journal article Journal of Juvenile Justice

The Impact of Child Protective Service History on Reoffending in a New Mexico Juvenile Justice Population

Article excerpt


The link between child maltreatment or abuse and juvenile delinquency is well established. Although this link exists, the majority of children who are abused do not offend. Abused children often suffer from developmental deficits, including disruptive behavior, behavioral and academic issues at school, depressive symptoms, and increased aggression in adolescence (Cicchetti & Rogosch, 1997; Dodge, Bates, & Pettit, 1990; Thornberry, Ireland, & Smith, 2001). Researchers have shown that the timing of child abuse is critical, not just the age of onset of abuse, but the occurrence of abuse at certain developmental time points. Multiple studies have shown that maltreatment during adolescence increases the risk of children being involved with the juvenile justice system (Jonson-Reid & Barth, 2000; Smith, Ireland, & Thornberry, 2005; Thornberry et al., 2001).

Several studies have examined the relationship between types of child abuse and delinquency, but the results have been conflicting. In a study by Zingraff, Leiter, Myers, and Johnsen (1993) comparing maltreated children to comparison groups of random school children and children in poverty (N = 1,091) living in North Carolina, physically or sexually abused children were no more likely to commit violent crimes than children with a history of neglect when controlling for age, gender, race, and family structure. A second study among 159,549 school-age children in California who had a child protective services investigation indicated that neglect, rather than physical or sexual abuse, was a better predictor of juvenile delinquency (Jonson-Reid & Barth, 2000). Results from the Chicago Longitudinal Study, a study of low-income, minority children, indicated that both physical abuse and neglect are associated with violent offending among disadvantaged minority children (Mersky& Reynolds, 2007).

In 2010, an estimated 3.3 million reports of child abuse and/or neglect were reported to U.S., state, and local PS agencies, a rate of 43.8 reports per 1,000 children (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2012). In the state of New Mexico in 2010, there were 23,751 cases of child abuse reported to state PS offices. The total population of children ages 0 to 17 years in 2010 in the state was 518,998 (Puzzanchera, Sladky, & Kang, 2013). The rate of reports of child abuse and/or neglect in New Mexico in 2010 was estimated at 45.7 reports per 1.000 children.

In New Mexico in 2010, there were 23,111 juvenile justice referrals, involving 14,532 juveniles reported to juvenile justice services (JJS-FY10 Annual Report) in an at-risk population of 230,461 children age 10 to 17 living in New Mexico (Puzzanchera et al., 2013). On average, there were 1.6 referrals per youth, with some youth having only one referral for the year and others having multiple referrals for the year. Although the rate of incarcerated youth in the United States has declined in the last 15 years, there is still more work that can be done to prevent youth from involvement in the juvenile justice system (Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2013).

The cost savings to taxpayers of preventing a lifetime of crime for a high-risk youth-defined as one who habitually commits crimes, is aggressive and violent toward others, engages in substance abuse, and is likely to drop out of high school- has been estimated at $2.6 to $5.3 million by age 18 (Greenberg & Lippold, 2013). The cost of just one lifetime police contact prior to the age of 26 is estimated to be $200,000; costs for youth with two or more police contacts are estimated at $1.3 million; and the estimates are increasingly higher for habitual offenders (Cohen & Piquero, 2009).

On average, abused and neglected children begin committing crimes at younger ages, committing nearly twice as many offenses as nonabused children, and are arrested more frequently (Widom, 1992). The identification of risk factors influencing the development of behavioral problems in children that lead to juvenile justice involvement will help to identify future children at risk. …

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