The relationship between types of childhood victimisation and young adulthood criminality


Background: Previous research suggests that some types of childhood abuse and neglect are related to an increased likelihood of perpetrating criminal behaviour in adulthood. Little research, however, has examined associations between multiple different types of childhood victimisation and adult criminal behaviour. Aims: We sought to examine the contribution of multiple and diverse childhood victimisations on adult criminal behaviour. Our central hypothesis was that, after controlling for gender, substance use and psychopathy, each type of childhood victimisation – specifically experience of property offences, physical violence, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, neglect and witnessed violence – would be positively and independently related to criminal behaviour in young adults. Methods: We examined data from a large, nationally representative sample of 2244 young Swedish adults who reported at least one form of victimisation, using hierarchical regression analysis to also account for gender, substance use and psychopathy. Results: Experiences of physical assaults, neglect and witnessing violence as a child were significantly associated with adult criminal behaviour, but not experiences of property, verbal or sexual victimizations. Conclusions: Our findings help to identify those forms of harm to children that are most likely to be associated with later criminality. Even after accounting for gender, substance misuse and psychopathology, childhood experience of violence – directly or as a witness – carries risk for adulthood criminal behaviour, so such children need targeted support and treatment. Copyright © 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Publication Title

Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health