A Longitudinal Study of the Effects of Early Abuse on Later Victimization among High-Risk Adolescents

By Tyler, Kimberly A.; Johnson, Katherine A. | Violence and Victims, June 2006 | Go to article overview

A Longitudinal Study of the Effects of Early Abuse on Later Victimization among High-Risk Adolescents


Tyler, Kimberly A., Johnson, Katherine A., Violence and Victims


Although previous research on adolescents finds a link between early abuse and later victimization, the majority of this research is cross-sectional and based on samples of currently homeless adolescents. Therefore, factors that predict the likelihood of victimization have not been systematically examined. As such, the current study longitudinally examines the effects of early abuse and poor parenting on victimization via running away, delinquency, and early sexual onset among a sample of over 700 currently housed high-risk adolescents. Results revealed that having experienced sexual and physical abuse, as well as lower levels of parental monitoring and closeness, significantly predicted running away at wave 1. Adolescents who had run at wave 1 were significantly more likely to run again, more likely to engage in delinquency, and more likely to have had an early sexual onset at wave 3, all of which significantly predicted victimization at wave 4.

Keywords: child maltreatment; running away; victimization; adolescents

Approximately 3.3 million cases of child abuse and neglect were reported in the United States in 2003 and an estimated 906,000 of these reports were substantiated (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2005). Many children who experience physical and sexual abuse are at risk for experiencing negative developmental outcomes including running away (Tyler, 2002; Tyler, Hoyt, & Whitbeck, 2000) and revictimization (Beitchman, Zucker, Hood, daCosta, & Akman, 1991; Desai, Arias, Thompson, & Basile, 2002; Tyler, Hoyt, Whitbeck, & Cauce, 2001a). Previous research on adolescents provides support for the link between family conflict and/or abuse and running away (Ek & Steelman, 1988; Greenblatt & Robertson, 1993; Miller, Eggertson-Tacon, & Quigg, 1990; Tyler et al., 2001 a; Schweitzer, Hier, & Terry, 1994; Whitbeck & Hoyt, 1999) as well as between early abuse and victimization on the street (Simons & Whitbeck, 1991; Tyler et al., 2001 a; Whitbeck, Hoyt, Yoder, Cauce, & Paradise, 2001). Additionally, early abuse and lower levels of monitoring, attachment, and closeness have been linked to delinquency and early sexual onset (Barnes & Farrell, 1992; Buzi et al., 2003; Flannery, Williams, & Vazsonyi, 1999; Laundra, Kiner, & Bahr, 2002) and delinquency, in turn, is associated with victimization (Baron, 1997; Esbensen & Huizinga, 1991). Finally, early sexual onset may be associated with an increased risk for victimization given that the earlier adolescents begin having sex, the more likely they are to have multiple sexual partners (Durbin et al., 1993), and more sexual partners increases victimization (Logan, Walker, Jordan, & Leukefeld, 2006). The vast majority of this research, however, is cross-sectional and based on samples of currently homeless youth. Therefore, factors that predict the likelihood that housed adolescents will subsequently run away from home and factors that predict victimization have not been systematically examined using longitudinal data.

Research on nonhomeless populations (cf. Gidycz, Coble, Latham, & Layman, 1993; Jankowski, Leitenberg, Henning, & Coffey, 2002; Schaaf & McCanne, 1998; Smith, White, & Holland, 2003) also supports the link between childhood abuse and adult victimization. Many of these studies, however, are retrospective, only examine sexual victimization (cf. Gidycz et al., 1993; Jankowski et al., 2002), and often focus on female college students, given their high rates of victimization (i.e., a rate of 54% found by Koss, Gidcyz, & Wisniewski, 1987). The current study goes beyond previous research in areas of homeless and non-homeless populations by using longitudinal data to examine the effects of early abuse and poor parenting on victimization via running away, delinquency, and early sexual onset within a sample of currently housed high-risk adolescents.

LITERATURE REVIEW

Research has shown that the majority of runaways have experienced physical abuse (Farber, Kinast, McCoard, & Falkner, 1984; Tyler & Cauce, 2002; Whitbeck & Hoyt, 1999) and between one-third and one-half have experienced sexual abuse, although the prevalence for sexual abuse tends to be higher among females (McCormack, Janus, & Burgess, 1986; Tyler & Cauce; Tyler et al. …

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