Investigating Trauma Symptomology as a Mediator of the Relationships Between Childhood Maltreatment and Sexual and Non-Sexual Delinquency

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Maltreatment is a risk factor for both sexual and non-sexual delinquency. Little is known about how specific forms of maltreatment relate to the distinct offending outcomes. Though trauma symptoms have been associated with maltreatment and delinquency, the intervening role of trauma symptoms in pathways from maltreatment to offending is not well understood. The goal of the current study was to test social learning and general strain theory explanations for sexual and non-sexual delinquency in adolescence, exploring trauma symptoms as a mediator between the four major types of maltreatment and offending outcomes. Data were collected via surveys of 136 incarcerated youth at seven residential treatment and community corrections facilities in a Midwestern state. Confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) was used to establish a measurement model, and structural equation modeling was employed to test direct and indirect pathways from maltreatment to offending. Individual forms of maltreatment had differential relationships with offending outcomes, with neglect having a significant association with non-sexual delinquency, and sexual abuse having a significant direct relationship with sexual delinquency. Trauma symptomology did not mediate these relationships. Future research should explore developmentally appropriate proxies for measuring childhood trauma. Practice and policy should consider the role of maltreatment victimization history in the inception of delinquency behaviors, prioritizing therapeutic alternatives to detention and incarceration.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSexual Abuse
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This research was funded by an external grant from The Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers. The content is solely the responsibility of the author and does not necessarily represent the official views of The Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2023.


  • child sexual abuse
  • childhood maltreatment
  • delinquency
  • juvenile sex offender
  • structural modeling
  • trauma symptomology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology (all)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Dive into the research topics of 'Investigating Trauma Symptomology as a Mediator of the Relationships Between Childhood Maltreatment and Sexual and Non-Sexual Delinquency'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this