Adverse childhood experiences and the intergenerational transmission of domestic and family violence in young people who engage in harmful sexual behaviour and violence against women
Substantial gaps exist in understanding how sexually violent behaviour towards women and children emerges and evolves in young people. Child maltreatment and domestic and family violence (DFV) have been identified as contributing factors towards criminal and violent behaviour, and females and males are exposed to adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) at similar rates.
However, young males commit a significant proportion of sexual violence against women and children. This research addresses sexual violence committed by young people through focusing on childhood developmental factors including gender development, ACEs and DFV.
The researchers aimed to increase understanding of the developmental histories of young Australian males who perpetrate harmful sexual behaviour (HSB). The project examined the occurrence, nature and extent of ACEs, including DFV, in the childhood of male youth, comparing those with convictions for sexual offences to those with convictions for non-sexual offences. In doing so, the researchers sought to understand how exposure to ACEs and DFV may influence later engagement in HSB and sexual violence, and to provide insights for policymakers and program designers responsible for creating prevention and intervention responses for this cohort. The investigation was shaped by three key research questions:
- What is the prevalence of different ACEs in the developmental histories of male youth in contact with the justice system, particularly those who engage in HSB?
- What are the differences in profiles of ACEs and offending behaviours (including HSB) for young males with and without exposure to DFV during childhood?
- What is the nature and extent of ACEs for First Nations young males who offend and/or engage in HSB?
Two existing and distinct datasets were utilised in this study. The first was administrative data from the Department of Children, Youth Justice, and Multicultural Affairs (DCYJMA). Clinical files from Griffith Youth Forensic Service (GYFS) included assessment and treatment information. Utilising both sets of data enabled both a robust investigation of ACE–offending relationships across a variety of offence types and a more in-depth exploration of a small group who had engaged in sexual harm only. The analysis included descriptive presentation of prevalence rates; descriptive analysis of group differences (sexual vs. nonsexual offending); and multivariate models to examine links between DFV and offending.
The analysis in this project contributes to the evidence base relating to the impact and outcomes of experiencing violence in the home as well as other forms of ACEs. These insights identify critical timing for interventions for children and young people i .. Additionally, the project revealed that there is further work to be done to reconceptualise the ACEs framework and to develop tools and methods to assess ACEs amongst First Nations children to ensure responses recognise and respond to the impacts of colonisation and structural racism. This work needs to be led and informed by First Nations people.
The project directly aligns with Closing the Gap (Australian Government, 2020) targets of reducing the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people in the criminal justice and child protection systems (targets 11 and 12, respectively), and significant and sustained reduction in violence and abuse against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children (target 13).
Exploring the onset, duration and temporal ordering of adverse childhood experiences in young people adjudicated for sexual offences: A longitudinal qualitative studyDownload
Adverse childhood experiences among youth who offend: Examining exposure to domestic and family violence for male youth who perpetrate sexual harm and violenceDownload
Associate Professor John Rynne, Director, Griffith Youth Forensic Service, Griffith Criminology Institute, Griffith University
Professor Patrick John O’Leary, Director, Violence Research and Prevention Program, Griffith Criminology Institute and School of Human Services and Social Work, Griffith University
Dr Danielle Arlanda Harris, Senior Lecturer, School of Criminology and Criminal Justice and Griffith Criminology Institute, Griffith University
Dr James Ogilvie, Research Fellow, Griffith Criminology Institute, Griffith University
Jodie Barton, Clinical Manager, Griffith Youth Forensic Service, Griffith Criminology Institute, Griffith University
Christine Handy, Manager, Mater Family and Youth Counselling Service, Mater Health Services Queensland
Sharon Kelly, Principal Practice Support Officer, Youth Justice, Department of Children, Youth Justice and Multicultural Affairs Queensland
Dr Rayleigh Joy, Manager, Practice Connect Child Safety, Department of Children, Youth Justice and Multicultural Affairs Queensland
Professor Jill Levenson, Ellen Whiteside McDonnell School of Social Work, Barry University, Florida
This project is funded by Australian Commonwealth, state and territory governments under ANROWS’s 2020–2022 Core Grant round.
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