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Violence against women and their children affects everybody. It impacts on the health, wellbeing and safety of a significant proportion of Australians throughout all states and territories and places an enormous burden on the nation’s economy across family and community services, health and hospitals, income-support and criminal justice systems.


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ANROWS was established by the Commonwealth and all state and territory governments of Australia to produce, disseminate and assist in applying evidence for policy and practice addressing violence against women and their children.



To support the take-up of evidence, ANROWS offers a range of resources developed from research to support practitioners and policy-makers in delivering evidence-based interventions.


Exploring the onset, duration and temporal ordering of adverse childhood experiences in young people adjudicated for sexual offences: A longitudinal qualitative study

The focus of this study is young people exhibiting sexual aggression or problematic sexual behaviours. It is the first to be published from the mixed-methods project “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”.

The adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) checklist of 10 items was developed over 20 years ago to help measure impacts on children and uncover correlations with outcomes such as involvement with the juvenile justice system. The checklist has been critiqued as incomplete as understanding of cumulative harm and its links to negative psychosocial and behavioural outcomes has developed over time.

In this study, the Griffith University research team led by Professor John Rynne addressed critiques of the ACEs checklist by including additional items (changes to the primary caregiver and changes to the young person’s living arrangements) and by examining the onset (when it first happened), offset (for example when an offending parent is removed, incarcerated or the child is moved into the care of another adult) and the arrangement of events in time.

A small sample of 20 cases from a pool of 400 young people who had been adjudicated for sexual offences were selected on the basis of highest ACE scores and ability to map the events over time. The researchers used a matrix to visualise the data, examples of which are included in the report.

Through this process the researchers learned that frequent changes to both accommodation and caregivers were highly prevalent within the sample, as was the concentration of maltreatment within the first six years of life. Mapping events over time also revealed that for this cohort, ACEs were often experienced constantly, over long periods of time. The authors conclude that these findings will support efforts to develop interventions, such as identifying critical timing for interventions and the ability to identify particularly vulnerable children and young people.

The next step for the project team will be to examine a broader number of cases. A second and final report will be published in mid-2022.



Publication details


Senior Lecturer, Griffith Criminology Institute

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Griffith Criminology Institute

Research Fellow, Griffith Criminology Institute

Clinical Manager, Griffith Youth Forensic Service, Griffith Criminology Institute

Director, Griffith Youth Forensic Service, Griffith Criminology Institute

Co-Lead of the Disrupting Violence Beacon; Director of Violence Research and Prevention, Griffith Criminology Institute

ISBN: 978-1-922645-27-2 (paperback) | ISBN: 978-1-922645-26-5 (PDF)

48 pp

Suggested citation

Harris, D. A., Ogilvie, J., Thomsen, L., Barton, J., Rynne, J., & O’Leary, P. (2022). Exploring the onset, duration, and temporal ordering of adverse childhood experiences in young people adjudicated for sexual offences: A longitudinal qualitative study (Research report, 07/2022). ANROWS.

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