The Centrality of Child Maltreatment to Criminology

Sarah A. Font, Reeve Kennedy

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Despite sufficient evidence to conclude that maltreatment exposure affects the risk of crime and delinquency, the magnitude and specificity of effects of child maltreatment on crime and delinquency and the mechanisms through which those effects operate remain poorly identified. Key challenges include insufficient attention to the overlap of child maltreatment with various forms of family dysfunction and adversity and a lack of comprehensive measurement of the multiple, often comorbid, forms of child maltreatment. We then consider the potential impacts of the child welfare system on the maltreatment-crime link. Because the child welfare system typically provides voluntary, short-term services of unknown quality, it likely neither increases nor reduces risks of delinquency and crime for most children who are referred or investigated. For the comparatively small (although nominally large and important) subset of children experiencing foster care, impacts on delinquency and crime likely vary by the quality of environments within and after their time in care mdash issues that, to date, have received too little attention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)371-396
Number of pages26
JournalAnnual Review of Criminology
StatePublished - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Law


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