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Child Abuse & Neglect 32 (2008) 3549

Behaviors of youth involved in the child welfare system

Andrew Grogan-Kaylor

, Mary C. Ruffolo, Robert M. Ortega, Jenell Clarke


University of Michigan, School of Social Work, 1080 South University, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1106, USA
Available online 21 December 2007
Abstract
Objective: Using data from a nationally representative panel study, the National Survey of Child and Adolescent
Well-Being (NSCAW), we address the following questions: (a) What are the youth, family, community, and child
welfare system risk factors that place youth (ages 1114 years) living at home, who are referred for maltreatment, at
increased risk of delinquent behaviors over time? and (b) What promotive factors at the youth, family, community,
and child welfare system levels appear to minimize the risk of delinquent behaviors for these youth over time?
Methods: The study uses the NSCAW data collected at baseline (Wave 1) and 18 months later (Wave 3). The
multivariate analyses were conducted using a tobit model adjusted for longitudinal data and a complex survey
sample.
Results: Several signicant risk and promotive factors were found to inuence the risk of delinquent behaviors over
time. Older youth were more likely to engage in delinquent behaviors than younger youth. Girls were less likely to
engage in delinquent behaviors than boys. Race or ethnicity did not have a statistically signicant relationship with
engaging in delinquent behaviors. Compared with neglected youth, youth who were physically abused were more
likelytoengage indelinquent behaviors. Increases incaregiver monitoringandinthe qualityof relationshipwithcare-
givers were associated with decreases in delinquent behaviors. Youth at greatest risk and those who engaged in more
delinquent behaviors received more child welfare services then youth who did not engage in delinquent behaviors.
Conclusions: The current child welfare delivery system emphasizes provision of services to youth experiencing the
more serious problems and less on preventive services. The study ndings suggest that preventive services when
youth rst enter the child welfare system that focus on enhancing caregiver skills in building positive relationships
with their youth and increased monitoring of the youths activity may alter the pathway to delinquent behaviors for
these youth.
2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Delinquent; Youth behaviors; Child welfare system

The authors of this manuscript gratefully acknowledge a grant from the Ofce of the Vice President for Research, University
of Michigan, which supported the preparation of this manuscript.

Corresponding author.
0145-2134/$ see front matter 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.chiabu.2007.09.004
36 A. Grogan-Kaylor et al. / Child Abuse & Neglect 32 (2008) 3549
Introduction
Child welfare and juvenile justice researchers increasingly have become interested in the link between
youth receiving child welfare services and delinquent behaviors of these youth that may result in their
involvement in the juvenile justice system (Jonson-Reid, 2004; Jonson-Reid & Barth, 2000; Stouthamer-
Loeber, Wei, Homish, & Loeber, 2002; Wiig, Widom, & Tuell, 2003). Prior research indicates that
anywhere from 9% to over 50% of youth in the child welfare system engage in delinquent behav-
iors (Kelly, Thornberry, & Smith, 1997; Maxeld & Widom, 1996; Ross, Conger, & Armstrong, 2002;
Smith & Thornberry, 1995; Stewart, Dennison, & Waterson, 2002). Current research on the link between
involvement in the child welfare system and the juvenile justice system, however, has used primarily
administrative data sources. This study adds to the knowledge base by exploring whether this link exists
in a longitudinal, nationally representative sample of youth involved in the child welfare system.
Using data fromthe rst and third waves of a nationally representative panel study, the National Survey
of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW), we explore the following questions: (a) What are the
youth, family, community and child welfare system risk factors that place youth (ages 1114 years)
living at home, who are referred for maltreatment, at increased risk of delinquent behaviors over time?
and (b) What promotive factors at the youth, family, community and child welfare system levels appear
to minimize the risk of delinquent behaviors for these youth over time?
Background
In a review of four prospective studies of youth in the child welfare system that occurred in different
parts of the United States, Widom (2003) found that those who are abused and neglected are more likely
to be arrested as juveniles when compared to youth not in the child welfare system (English, Widom,
& Brandford, 2002; Maxeld & Widom, 1996; Smith & Thornberry, 1995; Zingraff, Leiter, Myers, &
Johnsen, 1993). The Rochester Youth Development study found that youth who are maltreated during
adolescence or have been persistently maltreated in childhood and adolescence are at signicantly greater
risk of delinquent behaviors than youth who were never maltreated (Thornberry, Huizinga, & Loeber,
2004). Researchers found that less than 25% of youth who were never maltreated had arrest records,
but approximately 50% of youth maltreated in adolescence and youth maltreated at both childhood and
adolescence, had arrest records (Thornberry et al., 2004). Recent national statistics document that youth
younger than 13 are involved in almost 1 in 10 juvenile arrests, continue their delinquent behaviors for
extended periods of time, and are at the greatest risk of becoming serious, violent and chronic offenders
(Snyder, Espiritu, Huizinga, Loeber, & Petechuk, 2003).
Using an eco-developmental framework, Jonson-Reid (2002) examined whether child welfare ser-
vices moderated the relationship between child maltreatment and delinquency. They used administrative
databases from 1993 to 2000 to study 36,653 children in the foster care system, ages 5 through 16
years, and explored the link to delinquency for these children. Jonson-Reid found that receiving in-home
child welfare services appeared to decrease some of the risk of later incarceration for youth of color
when compared to those receiving no services. In addition, youth who received child welfare services
and mental health services were found to be at a higher risk of entering the juvenile justice system,
although recent evidence suggests such services can reduce involvement (Foster, Qaseem, & Conner,
2004).
A. Grogan-Kaylor et al. / Child Abuse & Neglect 32 (2008) 3549 37
Several reviews of the research conducted to examine the effects of child maltreatment on delin-
quent behaviors have indicated that current studies do not adequately address the complex set of risk
and protective factors that may inuence the pathway to delinquency for youth in the child welfare
system (Jonson-Reid, 1998; Jonson-Reid, 2004; Widom, 2003). Jonson-Reid (2004) noted that while
theoretical models used to predict delinquency following maltreatment try to place risk and protec-
tive factors in a developmental or ecological framework, little attention has been paid to the effects
of interventions provided by child welfare agencies. Jonson-Reid (2004) posited that child welfare
intervention may alter the path from maltreatment to delinquency by preventing future maltreatment,
changing the childs environment and leveraging rehabilitative and ancillary services in other sys-
tems. Research indicates that while youth who have been abused and neglected are more likely to be
engaged in delinquent acts, not all of these youth become delinquent. Examining promotive factors in
the individual, family, community, and child welfare system that may reduce the risk of these youth
engaging in delinquent behaviors is a critical next step in altering the pathway to delinquency for these
youth.
Conceptual framework
For this study, grounded in an eco-developmental approach, we used primarily a resilience-based
framework to guide our inquiry. Resilience refers to a dynamic process encompassing positive adaptation
within the context of signicant adversity (Luthar, Cicchetti, & Becker, 2000). A resiliency perspective
provides a framework for understanding the complicated relationships between youth risk factors, pro-
motive factors, and outcomes at different system levels (individual, family, community and child welfare
system). This perspective involves assessing strengths and decits in order to build protection and reduce
risk-exposure (Pollard, Hawkins, & Arthur, 1999). Fraser dened risk factors as any inuences that
increase the chances of harm or increase the probability of onset, digression to a more serious state or
maintenance of a problem condition (2004, p. 14). A promotive factor can be dened as an internal or
external force that helps youth resist or ameliorate risk (Sameroff & Gutman, 2004). The proportion of
promotive factors to risk factors has a signicant inuence on delinquency, and the presence of promotive
factors may offset the inuence of youth exposure to multiple risk factors (Williams, Ayers, Van Dorn, &
Arthur, 2004). Resilience emerges as a result of balancing the risk and promotive factors across multiple
system levels (Hawkins, Arthur, & Catalano, 1995; OKeefe, 1994).
Research on risk factors that predict delinquency has been conceptualized into two primary levels of
risk: (1) the community or contextual level and (2) the individual and interpersonal level of risk (Hawkins,
Catalano, & Miller, 1992; Williams et al., 2004; Williams & Van Dorn, 1999). Some of these community
or contextual risk factors include youth living in economically deprived neighborhoods with high levels
of unemployment, high rates of mobility and poverty (Peeples & Loeber, 1994). In the Pittsburgh Youth
Study, youth living in disadvantaged neighborhoods were found to have a higher percentage of risk factors
and a lower percentage of promotive factors when compared to youth living in better neighborhoods
(Stouthamer-Loeber, Loeber, Wei, Farrington, & Wikstrom, 2002). Some individual and interpersonal
risk factors include living in a family with a history of high-risk behaviors, unstable family structures, poor
academic performance, school failure, associating with delinquent peers, substance use by parents, low
IQ, and developmental delays (Hawkins et al., 1992; Hawkins et al., 1998). Promotive factors that may
reduce the chance of delinquency include being female, having prosocial parents, having a temperament
38 A. Grogan-Kaylor et al. / Child Abuse & Neglect 32 (2008) 3549
that allows one to adjust and recover, prosocial behavior, having a support system, strong spiritual values,
and family bonds (Williams et al., 2004).
Building on this research on resiliency, in this study we examine key youth, family, school, and com-
munity promotive and risk factors over time using a main effects resiliency model. Based on the previous
resiliencyresearch, promotive factors examinedincludedpositive parental relationships, parental monitor-
ing, community integration and safety, use of child welfare services, and youth mental and physical health;
riskfactors includedpsychosocial factors, familyfactors (parental mental health), youthtrauma, childhood
maltreatment, maladaptive peer inuences, violent neighborhoods, and placements in foster care.
Methods
Data are from the rst national longitudinal study of children in the child welfare system, the National
Survey of Child and Adolescent Wellbeing (NSCAW). The NSCAWstudy used a nationally representative
sample of youth (aged birth to 14 years) who had been referred to the child welfare systemfor maltreatment
investigation (Dowd et al., 2002). The present study uses the NSCAW data collected at baseline (Wave 1)
and 18 months later (Wave 3). The NSCAW interviews of the youth, parents/primary caregivers, teachers
and child welfare workers at these measurement points included measurements of childrens health and
physical well-being, social functioning, academic achievement, mental health, behavioral adjustment,
caregiver and family functioning, and neighborhood and service system conditions.
The initial NSCAW cohort included 6,231 children, ages birth to 14 (at the time of sampling) who
had contact with the child welfare system within a 15-month period beginning in October 1999; of these
5,504 children were selected at the time of entry into the child welfare (Dowd et al., 2002).
Using a stratied two-stage sampling approach, children were selected from97 counties in 8 states. For
more detailed discussion of the sampling approach and cohort development procedures, please see Leslie,
Hurlburt, Landsverk, Barth, and Slyman (2004). The sample of investigated cases included both those who
received on-going services and those not receiving services, either because they were not substantiated or
because it was determined that services were not required. Delinquency behavior measures in the NSCAW
were only administered to children 11 and older. Therefore, in this study, we focus mainly on youth ages 11
and older in the sample at Wave 1 and examine what happens to these youth by Wave 3 related to changes in
delinquent activities. The overall weightedresponse rate for the sample was 64.3%. While completionrates
for the NSCAW are generally high, there are missing data on some responses resulting in a nal analysis
sample of youth at Wave 1 (n =1180). At Wave 3, a total of 1,273 youth comprised the NSCAW sample
of youth 11 and older, since some of the younger youth turned 11 years old between Wave 1 and Wave 3.
Measures
Table 1 summarizes the key variables and the measurements used. All measures were completed at
both time points.
Community level
Neighborhood violence and safety. The Community Environment Scale developed by Abt Associates
(1996) was used to measure the neighborhood environment for the youth. The parent/primary caregiver
A. Grogan-Kaylor et al. / Child Abuse & Neglect 32 (2008) 3549 39
Table 1
NSCAW measurements for risk and promotive factors at Wave 1 and Wave 3
Risk and promotive factors NSCAW measurement instrument at Wave 1 and 3 Information source
Community level
Neighborhood quality Community environment scale developed by Abt Associates
(1996)
Parent/primary caregiver
Child welfare service use Total number of different types of child welfare services
received
Child welfare worker
Family level
Parental mental health WHO Composite International Diagnostic Interview Short
Form (CIDI-SF) module for depression (Kessler et al., 1998)
Parent/primary caregiver
Parental monitoring Parental monitoring scales developed by the UNOCCAP
Study Group (NIMH)
Youth
Parental-youth relationship Relatedness Scale from the Rochester Assessment Package
for Schools, RAP (Connell & Wellborn, 1991; Lynch &
Cicchetti, 1991)
Youth
Youth level
Youth maltreatment Severity of the most serious alleged type of maltreatment
when the abuse began (physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect,
other)
Child welfare worker
Youth health Child Summary health indicator from the child health
questionnaire
Parent/primary caregiver
Youth psychopathology Internalizing score from the youth self-report (Achenbach,
1991)
Youth
Youth trauma Trauma symptom checklist (PTSD section) Youth
Peer relationships Loneliness and social dissatisfaction scale developed by
Asher and Wheeler (1985)
Youth
Resiliency-protective factors Resiliency scales developed by LONGSCAN Group Youth
Delinquent behaviors
(dependent variable)
Delinquency scale developed by the NSCAW Research
Team (2004)
Youth
School engagement Measure adapted for NSCAW from the outcomes and drug
free schools and communities act initiative
Youth
Other sociodemographic
variables
Youth age, gender, living situation and race ethnicity Child welfare worker
was the reporter for this scale. The 9-item scale measured neighborhood risk factors (e.g., presence of
gangs, druginvolvement, assaults) andneighborhoodprotective factors (e.g., parents involved, helpfulness
of neighbors, feelings of safety). A sum score of the mean of nine community items was developed to
measure the overall neighborhood environment. The reliability coefcient for this scale was .88.
Child welfare service use. The total number of different types of child welfare services received (ranging
from 0 to 6 types) was used to measure child welfare service use.
Family level
Parental mental health. Using the World Health Organization Composite International Diagnostic
Interview Short-Form-CIDI-SF for major depressive disorders (Kessler, Andrews, Mroczek, Ustun,
40 A. Grogan-Kaylor et al. / Child Abuse & Neglect 32 (2008) 3549
& Wittchen, 1998), parental/primary caregiver mental health was assessed. This parental self-report
instrument asked three to eight questions to measure major depressive disorder. The number of questions
varied due to follow-up probes based on initial responses. Research on the CIDI-SF has supported the
test-retest reliability and validity of these scales (Kessler et al., 1998). The reliability coefcient for
parental mental health was .88.
Parental monitoring. Youth completed six questions that focused on parental/caregiver monitoring. These
questions used a Likert scale and were developed by Dishion, Patterson, Stollmiller, and Skinner (1991).
Higher scores, indicated higher levels of parental monitoring reported. The questions addressed howoften
the youth let his/her caregiver know he/she was leaving, where the youth was going and with whom, and
how often the caregiver told the youth what time to be home or youth told the caregiver what time he/she
would be home. The reliability coefcient for this scale was .65.
Parent-youth relationship. The parent-youth relationship was assessed using the eight-item shortened
version of the Relatedness Scale from the Rochester Assessment Package for Schools (RAPS; Connell &
Wellborn, 1991; Lynch & Cicchetti, 1991). Youth responded to questions that focused on their emotions
when around their parent/caregiver and their sense of being loved, trusted, and treated fairly. All eight
items were averaged, creating a single score. A higher score on this measure means a more positive
parent-youth relationship. For this measure, the reliability coefcient was .82.
Youth level
Youth maltreatment. Youth maltreatment was dened as the most serious type of alleged maltreatment
recorded by the child welfare worker for the current episode of youth involvement with the child welfare
system. The NSCAW research team based on the child welfare worker report, classied the seriousness
of the alleged maltreatment using a well-dened protocol. It is important to note that this measure refers
to the type of abuse noted in the initial child protective service report, and the child maltreatment may
not have been substantiated once the investigation was completed.
Youth health. Youth health status was measured using a single item. Youth reported on their overall health
status using a Likert scale format. The range was from1 to 5 with the lower rating indicating better overall
health status.
Youth psychopathology. Internalizing behaviors as reported by youth on the Youth Self-Report Measure
(YSR; Achenbach, 1991) were used to measure youth psychopathology. The internalizing score from the
YSR was used since many of the externalizing score items overlap with the delinquency measure. The
reliability coefcient for the internalizing scale was .89.
Youth trauma. Youth reported their symptoms of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress, sexual con-
cerns, dissociation, and anger using the Trauma SymptomChecklist for Children (TSCC; Briere &Runtz,
1989). Youth with higher scores experience more trauma. The checklist had a reliability coefcient of .84.
Peer relationships. The Loneliness and Social Dissatisfaction Questionnaire (Asher & Wheeler, 1985)
was used to measure the youths assessment of their feelings of loneliness, social adequacy, peer status,
A. Grogan-Kaylor et al. / Child Abuse & Neglect 32 (2008) 3549 41
and whether important peer relationship provisions were being met. This peer measure used a sum score
of the 16 items of this questionnaire. Higher scores on this measure mean youth report more positive peer
relationships. The reliability coefcient was .89.
Resilience/protective factors. Seven protective factors that promote youth resiliency were measured using
the Longitudinal Studies of Child Abuse and Neglect (LongScan) Resiliency Scale (Runyan et al., 1998).
Some of the items addressed whether youth felt they had an adult to turn to if they needed help; if they
had a parent or adult to go to with problems; if they went to a church, synagogue, or religious service; if
religion or spirituality was important to them; and if there was a person who made a difference in their life.
School engagement. This measure was comprised of 11 youth reported items, using a Likert scale
(1 =never to 4 =almost always). Some of the items in this measure asked about whether the youth
enjoyed being in school, if they completed their homework and if they got along with other students and
teachers. The reliability coefcient for this measure was .82.
Sociodemographics. These variables consisted of youths age, gender, living situation, and race/ethnicity.
Delinquent behaviors. This was the dependent variable and was measured using a delinquency scale
developed by the University of North Carolina (UNC)-Chapel Hill NSCAW Research Team (NSCAW
Research Team, 2004). The severity of survey items measuring different types of delinquent behaviors
over the past 6 months was assessed by three independent raters from a UNC Chapel Hill NSCAW
Research Team according to the level of delinquency they represented. Some of the behaviors included
were running away from home, skipping classes or school without an excuse, carrying a hidden weapon,
drinking in public places, and attacking someone with a weapon with the idea of hurting or killing them.
The inter-rater reliability for the severity of the delinquency scale items was .997. The NSCAW scale
developers also compared the items with items from delinquency scales used in several major surveys
and found substantial concordance between the new delinquency measure and the measures reported in
major research studies. The severity of each possible delinquent behavior was multiplied by the number
of times that an individual had engaged in that behavior, and scores were combined into a nal summary
score, presenting a single delinquency measure for each subject with a mean of 12.31 and a standard
deviation of 2.37 at Wave 1. The theoretical maximum score is 380 and the minimum is 0.
Analysis
Appropriate analysis of the research questions required attention to the longitudinal nature of the
NSCAW data set, as well as consideration of the complex nature of the NSCAW survey sample.
One approach to analyzing these data might be to use Wave 1 measures to predict Wave 3 measures.
However, such an analytic strategy, while possessed of some intuitive attraction, would pose problems
for analysis of longitudinal data such as that collected by the NSCAW. Most notably, because of the
longitudinal nature of the NSCAW, measures of boththe dependent andindependent variables are collected
at multiple points in time. Using the ordinary least squares regression models appropriate for cross-
sectional data, it is not possible to incorporate multiple values of a dependent variable. Multiple values of
independent variables may be entered into a regression model. However, in such a framework, one runs
the risk that child characteristics from Wave 1 and Wave 3 of the data would be highly correlated, leading
42 A. Grogan-Kaylor et al. / Child Abuse & Neglect 32 (2008) 3549
to multicollinearity in the model and instability of estimation. As Singer and Willett (2003) point out,
traditional ordinary least squares regression models are ill-suited for use with time varying covariates that
are common in longitudinal data.
In contrast, the models proposed in this analysis follow a common logic of panel data and growth
trajectory models (Raudenbush & Bryk, 2002; Singer & Willett, 2003; Wooldridge, 2000, 2002). The
model used in this analysis uses measurement occasions (or what Singer & Willett, 2003 call person-
periods) as the unit of analysis rather than individuals. The outcome is then our measure of delinquency
at each measurement occasion, whether Wave 1 or Wave 3. Since each measurement occasion for each
individual represents a distinct row of the data, these models are able to capture both within subject
variation over time, and between subject variation at the same point in time (Raudenbush & Bryk, 2002;
Wooldridge, 2000, 2002).
To posit a simple example consider the association of caregiver monitoring with delinquent behavior.
Our model would account for the fact that there may be differences between caregivers in the mean levels
of caregiver monitoring that they provide over the course of the study, and that there may also be changes
within individual caregivers in the amount of caregiver monitoring that they provide between the two
time points of the study.
An important advantage of this approach to modeling is that independent variables at multiple time
points can be readily incorporated into the model, which might be difcult using other modeling
approaches. A related feature of such models is that they are able to include information from individuals
who are only observed at Wave 1, or from individuals who are observed at both Wave 1 and Wave 3.
Grogan-Kaylor (2005) has implemented a similar model in the study of the way parenting behaviors
may contribute to childrens antisocial behavior. The approach taken here makes use of regression esti-
mators that are available for the analysis of complex survey samples (StataCorp, 2004). Such survey
regression estimators account for the fact that observations for the same individual are correlated. The
NSCAWresearch teamat Research Triangle Institute have developed materials that discuss the application
of these methods with the NSCAW data in particular (Research Triangle Institute, 2004).
Exploratory analysis of the delinquency variable revealed many zero values because most of the youth
in the NSCAW sample did not engage in delinquent activities at either Wave 1 or Wave 3. A perennial
concern within the statistical and econometrics literature has been the idea that analysis of a dependent
variable with a large number of zero values using standard linear regression procedures is likely to result
in biased parameter estimates (Greene, 1997). Therefore, for this analysis, a tobit specication (Tobin,
1958) was adopted for the regression model because it corrects for the bounding or censoring of the
delinquent behavior variable. Following Greene (1997) or Roncek (1992), the tobit procedure models a
latent dependent variable y* according to the following set of conventions:
y
observed
= y if y 0
y
observed
= 0 if y < 0
Tobin provided the original elucidation of the model. The tobit model has been used in previous work to
understand antisocial or violent behavior, which is often a rare event (Jacobs & OBrien, 1998; Jacobs &
Wood, 1999). Grogan-Kaylor and Otis (2003) provide a readily understandable application of the model
in the study of the effect of child maltreatment on adult criminality.
The University of Michigan Health Science Institutional Review Board approved the study protocol.
A. Grogan-Kaylor et al. / Child Abuse & Neglect 32 (2008) 3549 43
Results
Table 2 summarizes the key sample demographic variables. At Wave 1, the sample of youth, 11 years
of age and older was 1,180. At Wave 3, the NSCAW sample of youth who had completed both Wave 1
and Wave 3 had dropped to 983. Over half of the youth were female (57.2%). About half the youth were
White/Non-Hispanic, about a quarter Black/Non-Hispanic and less than one-fth Hispanic. The average
age of the youth was 12.7 years, and the most common reason for referral to child welfare service was
neglect (39.7%). An overwhelming majority of the youth (60.2%) who had been referred to child welfare
services did not receive any child welfare services (e.g., counseling, in-home interventions) during the
study time period.
Multivariate statistics
The nal multivariate model is shown in Table 3. Age and gender were youth demographic character-
istics signicantly related to delinquent behaviors. Older youth were more likely to engage in delinquent
behaviors than younger youth. Females were less likely to engage in delinquent behaviors than males.
Race or ethnicity did not have a statistically signicant relationship with delinquent behaviors.
Several factors related to a youths involvement with the child welfare system were associated with
engaging in delinquent behaviors. In this analysis, neglect was used as the reference category. Compared
with neglected youth, physically abused youth were more likely to engage in delinquent behaviors.
Other forms of child maltreatment did not have a statistically signicant effect on youth engagement in
delinquent behaviors.
The level of neighborhood violence and safety was not linked to differences in youth delinquent
behaviors. The number of types of child welfare services with which the youth was involved was positively
associated with engagement in delinquent activities.
The model contained two variables assessing the connection between youth and their caregivers.
Increases in the quality of caregiver monitoring and in the quality of the positive relationship between
youth and caregivers were associated with decreases in delinquent behaviors.
Some indicators of youths mental health were related to delinquent behaviors, while others were not.
Youth who experienced higher levels of loneliness and dissatisfaction experienced statistically signicant
but substantively small decreases in delinquent behaviors. Trauma and higher levels of internalizing
behavior problems were associated with statistically signicant increases in delinquent behaviors, but
the size of these effects was small. Youths overall mental health status was not related to engagement
in delinquent behaviors. School engagement was not associated with changes in the level of delinquent
behaviors.
Discussion
In this study using a nationally representative sample of youth in the child welfare system, we examined
the associations between youth involvement in the child welfare system and engagement in delinquent
behaviors over time using a main effects resiliency model. Provision of social services was associated
with higher levels of delinquent behaviors in youth. Youth who received more than one type of child
44 A. Grogan-Kaylor et al. / Child Abuse & Neglect 32 (2008) 3549
Table 2
Descriptive statistics for 1,180 youth at beginning of study (Wave 1)
Dependent variable
Estimate
a
Standard error
Delinquent behaviors 12.3 2.37
Demographic variables/categorical variables
Estimated proportion
a
(%) Standard error
Youth gender
Male 42.8 .03
Female 57.2 .03
Youth race
Black/Non-Hispanic 28.9 .04
White Non-Hispanic 49.3 .04
Hispanic 16.1 .03
Other 6.7 .01
Continuous variable
Estimate
a
Standard error
Youth age in years 12.7 .06
Covariates categorical variables
Estimated proportion
a
(%) Standard error
Most serious type of abuse
Neglect 39.7 .03
Physical abuse 31.5 .03
Sexual abuse 14.2 .02
Other reason 14.6 .02
Setting in which youth lives
In home, no services 60.2 .03
In home, services 26.5 .03
Out of home care 13.4 .02
Continuous variables/variable
Estimate
a
Standard error
Community level
Neighborhood quality .0 .04
Child welfare service use .6 .07
Family level
Parental mental health 47.0 .72
Parental monitoring .1 .04
Parental-youth relationship .0 .06
A. Grogan-Kaylor et al. / Child Abuse & Neglect 32 (2008) 3549 45
Table 2 (Continued )
Continuous variables/variable
Estimate
a
Standard error
Youth level
Youth health 2.0 .05
Youth psychopathology 50.0 .91
Youth trauma 48.9 .71
Peer relationships 30.3 .74
Resiliency protective factors 4.3 .07
School engagement 1.2 .03
a
Estimates are for the population and because of the complex survey design, have an associated standard error.
Table 3
Results of the multivariate analyses
Variable Coefcient Standard error t p
Predictors of delinquency
Youth age in years 3.84 1.38 2.79 <.01
Youth gender 14.80 5.47 2.71 <.01
Black/Non-Hispanic 9.33 5.70 1.64 .11
Hispanic 2.27 6.83 .33 .74
Other race 2.22 9.31 .24 .81
In home, services 1.33 5.73 .23 .82
Out of home care 2.17 5.69 .38 .70
Physical abuse 14.55 7.10 2.05 .04
Sexual abuse 9.15 6.13 1.49 .14
Other reason .02 5.92 .00 1.00
Community level
Neighborhood quality 3.20 2.82 1.13 .26
Child welfare service use 6.57 2.20 2.98 <.01
Family level
Parental mental health .12 .16 .75 .46
Parental monitoring 16.66 5.78 2.88 <.01
Parental-youth relationship 10.29 3.90 2.64 .01
Youth level
Youth health 3.48 2.39 1.46 .15
Youth psychopathology .56 .21 2.62 .01
Youth trauma .81 .29 2.76 <.01
Peer relationships .79 .39 2.04 .05
Resiliency protective factors 1.39 1.99 .70 .49
School engagement 13.33 9.75 1.37 .18
Constant 59.25 38.00 1.56 .12
ln() (ancillary parameter) 3.72 .16 23.70 <.01
46 A. Grogan-Kaylor et al. / Child Abuse & Neglect 32 (2008) 3549
welfare service (e.g., mental health counseling, in home services) between Wave 1 and Wave 3 reported
more delinquent behaviors. The likely explanation for this result is that increased levels of services were
provided by the child welfare system as child welfare workers identied greater levels of delinquency.
In addition, the two family promotive factors (parental monitoring and having positive relationships with
parents) were found to decrease the likelihood of youth engaging in delinquent behaviors. This nding
suggests that interventions for these youth need to focus on building positive relationships with parents and
promoting ways for parents to monitor their youths activities. Positive neighborhood factors and school
engagement were not associated with decreases in delinquent behaviors suggesting that interventions in
these areas may be less likely to be met with reductions in delinquent behavior. The overall parental
mental health status was not associated with delinquent behaviors of the youth.
While most of the ndings support earlier research based on administrative data studies (Jonson-Reid,
2002; Widom, 2003), we did not nd that a youths race or ethnicity increased the likelihood of youth
engaging in delinquent behaviors over time.
Another difference that contrasts with earlier studies (Grogan-Kaylor & Otis, 2003; Thornberry et al.,
2004) was that youth who experienced physical abuse were more likely to engage in delinquent behaviors
then youth who experienced other forms of abuse including sexual abuse and neglect. This difference may
be due to the fact that NSCAW records the most serious maltreatment type, rather than having a set of
indicators that allow the analyst to assess multiple types of maltreatment. Consistent with earlier studies
(Jonson-Reid, 2002; Thornberry et al., 2004), individual risk factors such as types of maltreatment, youth
experiences with trauma, and youth reporting higher levels of internalizing behavior problems were found
to be associated with increased levels of delinquent behaviors.
There were some limitations to this study. The literature identies an extensive review of factors
focused on the individual youth in terms of cognitive, emotional and behavioral domains that enlist more
encompassing and precise measures than were available in the NSCAW data. In addition, reliance on
records and youth self-report measures is fraught with challenges to research in terms of the accuracy
of recall. The indicator used for the use of child welfare services did not allow for exploration of the
extent of contact the youth had with services. Finally, low rates of reported parental substance abuse and
parental reports of domestic violence in the NSCAW sample resulted in not being able to include these
risk factors in the current analyses. Reliance on parental reports of substance abuse and domestic violence
may have resulted in under-reporting in these domains.
This study reported on a main effects model for examining risk and promotive factors. Further research
in this area would benet from the exploration of moderating factors. Moderating models would allow
for the analysis of whether the relationships of particular risk and promotive factors with delinquency
are constant across the sample. For example, the results of this analysis suggest that increases in parental
monitoring are associated with decreases in delinquency. Future research would benet from analyses
of moderation which explored whether the relationship of parental monitoring and delinquency were
constant across different subgroups, such as families living in different types of neighborhoods.
While the focus of this study was to examine associations between key risk and protective factors
of maltreated youth who subsequently become involved in delinquent behaviors, future work needs to
examine predictive models to understand what types of preventive interventions might be developed to
change the pathway to juvenile delinquency for these youth.
This study has provided a longitudinal examination of the predictors of delinquency in a sample of
youth involved with the child welfare system. Important methodological features of the study include
the attention to the complex sample afforded by the NSCAW data and the appropriate modeling of
A. Grogan-Kaylor et al. / Child Abuse & Neglect 32 (2008) 3549 47
delinquency outcomes in a situation where many children involved with the child welfare system do not
engage in delinquency at all. The study nds that increases in caregiver monitoring and in the quality
of youths relationships with caregivers were associated with decreases in delinquent behaviors in youth
referred to child welfare services. Study ndings suggest that when youth rst enter the child welfare
system preventive services that focus on enhancing caregiver skills in building positive relationships with
their youth and increased monitoring of the youths activity may alter the pathway to delinquent behaviors
for these youth.
Acknowledgments
The rst author thanks Professor Sandra Danziger for conversations which improved the quality of
this manuscript.
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