The journal 'Child Maltreatment and Adult Criminal Behavior

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In the article "Child Maltreatment and Adult Criminal Behavior: Does Criminal Thinking Explain the Association?," the relationship between several types of child maltreatment, such as physical abuse, physical neglect, and sexual abuse, is examined as a result of criminal thinking. There are positive correlations between child sexual offenses and adult sexual abuse, according to researchers who examined the criminal behaviors of a sample of adult men who are currently being tried for crimes. The broad types of criminal thinking, as well as reactive and proactive criminal thinking, were explained by mediation analyses that were used in this study. These analyses showed connections between adult criminal behaviors and overall histories of maltreatment (Cuadra et al., 2014). Conclusively, the research showed that criminal behavior is psychologically triggered and has a connection with child maltreatment.

The study is exploratory because it attempts to examine criminal thinking styles (forms of cognitive distortions) as factors that can explain why the selected inmates who have undergone early maltreatment may have a higher possibility than the other non-maltreated peers to engage in criminal activities as adults. One of the variables in the study is how criminal thinking is influenced by child maltreatment. Cuadra et al. (2014) explain this by stating that personal experiences tend to influence development of one's cognitive structures; maltreated children could develop unique maladaptive cognitive procedures that involve distorted beliefs about themselves, the environment or others which may affect their responses in social situations (engage in criminal behavior).

Furthermore, criminal thinking was measured through the Psychological Inventory of Criminal Thinking Styles (PICTS), which consists of 80 self-report items that examine eight styles of criminal thinking which were empirically associated with criminal behaviors. The participants responded to the Likert 4 point scale which entailed 1 for disagree to 4 for strongly agree. PICTS was then applied where three scales acted as indicators of the styles of criminal thinking; Proactive subscale, General Criminal Thinking, and Reactive subscale.

The other variable that has been pointed out in the study is criminal behaviors. This is theorized by assuming that individuals who have been exposed indirectly or directly to abusive or violent experiences (for example witnessing forms of domestic violence) early during development could have a higher chance of adopting corresponding beliefs and attitudes that emphasize reinforcing elements of violence and participate in abusive or offensive behaviors as adults. The researchers measured this by reviewing the adult's criminal history, classification reports, police reports, victim statements and related pertinent records. This information allowed them to code basic demographic data as well as detailed information on criminal history through file coding. They were then categorized into nonviolent offenses, violent nonsexual offenses and sexual offenses. Each crime was then given a frequency score; 0 showed no particular crime was committed, 1 showed a particular crime was done once, 2 showed a particular crime was done twice, 3 showed a particular crime was done thrice or more times.

PICTS has been identified by Cuadra et al. (2014) as an efficient method that has been applied in many studies that involve criminal thinking. This means that it is a valid form of measurement that guarantees satisfactory findings and the scores are reliable when it comes to predicting future criminal offenses irrespective of the type. On the other hand, the file coding approach is valid because it ensures severity of the criminal acts (Cuadra et al., 2014). Due to its reliability, it managed to account for general adult criminal behavior by scoring participants on a scale of 1 to 3depending on the most serious offense to the least.

The study used both qualitative and quantitative methods. This is attributed by the fact that criminal records and history of the participants were used to gather information that would be used in the study. Furthermore, quantitative methods were used because scales were used to measure the level of criminal behavior, child maltreatment history and criminal thinking. SPSS was used in the data analysis in which indirect, direct, and total effects of the child maltreatment (x), on the criminal behavior (y), and criminal thinking styles (M) were determined.

385 adult male offenders that were recently adjudicated were used in the study and they were from the state correctional facility. 35 participants, however, did not have official criminal records and 12 more participants offered just partial data. As a result, both groups were eliminates from the analyses and this led to a final sample figure of 338 participants. The average age of the sample was 32.45 years. The ethnic backgrounds of the sample included African American (19.5%), European American (67.5%), Native American (2.1%), Latino (8.3%), Asian Pacific Islander (0.3%) as well as eight other individuals that failed to indicate their ethnicity or race (2.4%). Most of the participants indicated that they were divorced (19.2%) or single (46.2%). 45.6 percent of the sample indicated that they had an education that was below 12th grade, 22.2 percent successfully completed 12th grade, 2.1 percent had a Bachelor's degree, 25.4 percent completed college, and 4.7 percent failed to indicate their educational attainment level.

Generally, the analyses carried out in the study showed that even though criminal behavior was not because of early maltreatment, early maltreatment still increases the chances of its occurrence. This is because the findings of the study have conclusive explanations that confirm the study variables. Furthermore, the researchers have used credible data analysis methods that conclude the investigations of the study. The study sample was also relevant to the study, which made the information that they provided credible to the investigation.

All the inmates were automatically eligible to take part in the study regardless of the offense they were convicted for except for those that could not read the English language. The respondents were then compensated as soon as they completed the study through cash deposits in their accounts. After informed consent, self-report data collection method was used in which they were grouped in groups of 6 to 10 and this was done weekly. This method was beneficial because the inmates revealed more accurate information amongst themselves rather than being interviewed by the researchers themselves which normally makes them feel uneasy. The disadvantage of this method is that the respondents may provide inaccurate information in order to claim the cash reward. The method is practical because the research requires personal information about the respondent in order to expand on the purpose of the study.

Cuadra et al. (2014) indicate that the findings were consistent with the probability that the cognitive distortions coming from the child maltreatment led to adult criminality. Furthermore, the study's correlational design failed to permit conclusions about the temporal ordering or causation of variables. Cut scores attained from the Receiver Operating Characteristics (ROC) analyses 65.4% of the respondents indicated physical abuse, 31.5% revealed that they were sexually abused, 50.3% physical neglect, 53.8% emotional neglect, and 56.2% emotional abuse during childhood. In general, 14.5% respondents failed to indicate that they were maltreated, 14.5% reported that they were maltreated two times, 17.5% indicate it happened three times and 15.1 percent claimed they experience five kinds of maltreatment. Overall, there descriptive statistics and zero order correlations that were used for the study variables, which included child maltreatment, mean severity, scores, criminal behavior and criminal thinking styles. The inter-correlations among the forms of maltreatment were statistically and positively significant just as the criminal thinking styles correlations.

I think that this study is interesting because it explores and correlates the criminal behavior of an individual with their experiences in terms of indicators that they also experienced life-changing events (child abuse) during childhood. This is useful in gaining a better understanding of the criminals and their psychological triggers that eventually affect society as a whole.


Cuadra, L. E., Jaffe, A. E., Thomas, R., & DiLillo, D. (2014). Child maltreatment and adult criminal behavior: Does criminal thinking explain the association? Child abuse & neglect, 38(8), 1399-1408.

April 13, 2023

Literature Crime

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