Effects of Early Adverse Risks on Middle Childhood Behavior Development, Adolescent Physical and Mental Health, and First Juvenile Arrest for Low-Income Youth
Type of DegreeDissertation
Human Development and Family Studies
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The current dissertation investigates the effects of early adverse risks on middle childhood behavior development, adolescent physical and mental health, and first juvenile arrest in a high-risk national Longitudinal Studies of Child Abuse and Neglect (LONGSCAN) sample of youth from mostly single-mother headed families who receive public assistance. Study one uses Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) and multi-domain growth modeling to examine mediation of the relationship between early poor maternal health and poor adolescent physical and mental health outcomes by middle childhood aggression, withdrawal, and social problem development. Overall, both non-maltreated and maltreated children decrease in aggression and social problems but only maltreated children increase in withdrawal during middle childhood. Social problems at age 8 mediate the relationship between maternal and adolescent overall physical and mental health (but not BMI or depression) for both groups. The slope of withdrawal behavior from 8-14 years old mediates the relationship between maternal health and overall adolescent health (not BMI or depression) for maltreated youth alone. Study two utilizes discrete-time survival analysis to examine juveniles’ risk of first arrest and how this risk is predicted by time-varying effects of juveniles’ sex, maltreatment type before age 8, race, and associated interactions. Overall, developmental risk of first arrest peaks at age 16 and subsequently declines. Significant predictors of juveniles’ risk include time-varying effects of sex, time-varying effects of maltreatment type, and the interaction of sex and maltreatment type; however, race is not a significant predictor when controlling for these interaction effects. Physically neglected males are most at risk of arrest for the first time at 15 years old compared to all other males (who are most at risk at age 16) but physically abused 16 year-old males have the highest risk of all juveniles. Females who have been both physically abused and neglected experience the highest risk of arrest compared to all other females at age 16. Overall, the current dissertation extends previous research in several important areas and may provide useful implications for prevention and intervention efforts with high-risk youth.