Exploring the onset, duration, and temporal ordering of Adverse Childhood Experiences in youth involved in the justice system

Dr Danielle Harris, Dr James Ogilvie

1Griffith University

For more than two decades, the ACE Checklist has been used to indicate the dichotomously measured (never/ever) presence of 10 difficult life circumstances experienced in childhood and adolescence. Research now provides a compelling account of the cumulative presence of these variables in populations of justice-involved youth. Such observations are particularly stark for adolescents who themselves commit acts of sexual abuse. Missing from our understanding of adverse childhoods and family dysfunction in these samples is a developmental approach that captures continuity and change over time. This study takes a longitudinal approach to data visualisation and plots the onset, duration, offset, and temporal ordering of each experience for a purposive sample of 20 youths adjudicated for sexual offences whose clinical records indicate profound childhood adversity. The clinical implications for this research and future directions for further study and lingering knowledge gaps are discussed.


Dr Harris is the Deputy Director-Research of the Griffith Youth Forensic Service and a Senior Lecturer in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Griffith University. Her research examines sexual aggression through a developmental and life course perspective, examining onset, specialization, versatility, desistance, and related public policy. Her study of civilly committed sex offenders in Massachusetts was funded by the Guggenheim Foundation and she received a grant from the California Sex Offender Management Board for a statewide survey of community supervision practices. She recently received ANZSOC Christine M Alder Book Award for her first book, Desistance from Sexual Offending.


Dec 09 2021