Developmental approaches to understanding behaviour over the life-course

A/Prof Tara Renae McGee1, Dr Carleen  Thompson1, Professor Ross  Homel1, Dr Catia Malvaso3, Professor Paul Delfabbro3, Professor Andrew Day4, Professor  Anna  Stewart1, Professor Lisa Broidy2, Dr Kate Freiberg1, Professor David  Farrington5, Professor Darrick Jolliffe6, Dr Jessica Craig7

1Griffith University, Mount Gravatt, Australia,

2University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, USA,

3University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia,

4University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia ,

5University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK,

6University of Greenwich, London, UK, 7University of North Texas, Denton, USA

From victims to offenders: The relationship between child maltreatment and offending trajectories

Presenters: Carleen Thompson, Anna Stewart, Lisa Broidy

In this study we investigate the relationship between the timing and chronicity of child maltreatment and trajectories of offending from late childhood to young adulthood. Using data from the Queensland Linkage Project (N = 44,021), maltreatment-offending links are examined for all individuals in Queensland born in 1983 or 1984 who had a substantiated history of child maltreatment or official record of offending between ages 10 through 25 years (i.e. youth and adult court finalisations and formal youth police cautions). Using semiparametric group-based modelling, we detail heterogeneity in the timing, frequency, and duration of child maltreatment, and explore the relationship between child maltreatment trajectories and the seriousness and persistence of offending. Gender differences in the relation between child maltreatment and offending trajectories are also explored. Findings suggest that experiences of child maltreatment are associated with elevated rates of offending, particularly amongst females. However, the impact of maltreatment on subsequent offending patterns differs according to the timing, frequency, and duration maltreatment. Males and females who were maltreated during adolescence were more likely engage in chronic offending compared to individuals whose maltreatment was confined to early childhood. Protection from or exposure to victimisation as well as its timing, nature, and extent play a particularly salient role in female’s offending. Implications for policy and practice, and life course theories of offending are discussed.

The prevalence of adverse childhood experiences among young people in detention in South Australia

Presenters: Catia Malvaso, Paul Delfabbro, Andrew Day

Empirical knowledge about the prevalence and interrelatedness of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) in young people involved in youth justice systems in Australia is limited. This study examined the prevalence of ACEs in a sample of young people who were detained in youth justice services in an Australian state. It explored how ACEs are interrelated and their associations with violent offending. Assessment data for 2045 young people who spent time in detention between 1995 and 2012 were used. The results indicated that ACEs were common in this population, were highly interrelated, and more prevalent among young people who had convictions for violent offences. Differences in the prevalence of ACEs according to gender and cultural background were evident. Compared to males, females had a higher prevalence of individual ACEs, as well as higher cumulative ACE scores. Non-Aboriginal females had the highest prevalence for physical and sexual abuse, and household conflict, while both Aboriginal males and females reported more family criminality and substance use problems. These findings have important implications for the role of screening for ACEs in offender populations, and the potential benefit of targeting interventions towards addressing the consequences of these traumatic experiences.

Childhood ACEs and their long term outcomes in adulthood

Presenters: Tara Renae McGee, Darrick Jolliffe, Jessica Craig, David Farrington

This study aims to assess the impact of adverse childhood experiences on later life success in adulthood. Data are drawn from the Cambridge Study in Delinquent Development, a prospective longitudinal study of 411 inner-city London boys who were followed up from childhood to age 48. Adverse childhood experiences include physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, physical neglect, emotional neglect, exposure to domestic violence, household substance abuse, household mental illness, parental separation or divorce, and having an incarcerated household member. Guided by Farrington and colleagues’ (2006) approach to examining life success, the life success measure incorporates factors such as accommodation, cohabitation, employment, fights, alcohol use, drug use, and psychiatric problems. This paper will examine the extent to which adverse childhood experiences are related to life success in adulthood.

A scalable Australian methodology for constructing community-level risk and protective factor profiles for children aged 5-12 years

Presenters: Ross Homel, Kate Freiberg, Tara McGee

The CREATE-ing Pathways to Child Wellbeing Project is a long-term partnership of researchers with the Commonwealth Department of Social Services, departments of education and human services in New South Wales and Queensland, six non-government agencies, and a multimedia organisation. CREATE builds on Communities That Care and PROSPER, the only two U.S. community collective impact models to have demonstrated effectiveness in community-randomized trials. CREATE works through existing community service and school systems and uses an innovative computer game (Rumble’s Quest) to collect through primary schools community-wide risk/protective factor data from children mostly too young (6-12 years) to complete surveys. The Rumble’s Quest system produces automated, psychometrically valid and reliable school-level reports of children’s overall wellbeing, school attachment, emotion regulation, social-emotional confidence, and quality of home relationships. These reports are aggregated across schools to create a Statistical Area 2 (suburb or town) profile, and then combined with selected government indicators (e.g., family violence rates) and items from the Australian Early Development Census, a triennial universal (98%) teacher assessment of 5-year old children’s developmental status to construct SA2-level scores for 23 child risk/protective factors derived from longitudinal research. We present the methodology and preliminary results for the subset of the 149 SA2s in the two states for which complete data are available.


Dr Carleen Thompson is a lecturer in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice and Griffith University. Her research explores early and contemporaneous factors associated with offending and reoffending using socio-ecological and developmental life-course frameworks. Carleen has led projects advancing this research agenda in the areas of risk assessment, child maltreatment, stalking, violence and adult-onset offending. Carleen’s research has had considerable impact on policy and practice in Queensland, leading to state-wide changes in risk assessment practices across child protection, youth justice and adult corrections.

Dr Catia Malvaso is a postdoctoral research fellow in the School of Psychology and School of Public Health at the University of Adelaide. Catia completed her PhD in 2017 and was awarded a Dean’s Commendation for Doctoral Thesis Excellence and the Frank Dalziel Prize for Best Psychology Thesis. Her main research interests are in the areas of child protection, youth justice, developmental psychology and developmental and life course criminology. Specifically, she is interested in pathways from child maltreatment to youth and adult offending.

Ross Homel is the foundation professor of criminology at Griffith University. His research involves the theoretical analysis of crime, violence, and related social problems, and the prevention of these problems through the application of the scientific method to problem analysis and the development, implementation and evaluation of interventions.

Tara Renae McGee is a developmental and life-course criminologist and Associate Professor at Griffith University. She is the current President of ANZSOC and Co-editor of the Journal of Developmental and Life-Course Criminology.

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