Exploring the relationship between childhood neglect and violence in a sample of high-risk early adolescents: findings from a longitudinal study Public Deposited

Downloadable Content

Download PDF
Last Modified
  • March 20, 2019
  • Margolis, Benyamin
    • Affiliation: Gillings School of Global Public Health, Department of Health Behavior
  • Introduction. Youth violence rates have increased more than adult rates since 2004. Child maltreatment is a key risk factor for violent behavior in youth. Although neglect is the most prevalent form of childhood maltreatment, its contribution to development of violence is unclear, as is the potential mediating role of social bonds. This dissertation assesses the relationship between childhood neglect before age 8 and the development of early adolescent violence (EAV) by age 14, and examines whether social bonds, defined according to Social Control Theory (SCT), mediate this relationship. Methods. Data came from interviews of children (n = 352) from two samples of the LONGSCAN (Longitudinal Studies of Child Abuse and Neglect) Consortium who completed the Conduct Disorder module of the Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children-Version IV (DISC). The outcome was self-reported perpetration of serious violence in the previous 12 months. Additional data came from the child's caregivers and social service agency records. Data were analyzed to examine differences between violent and non-violent youths based on exposure to maltreatment. Negative binomial regression models assessed the neglect-EAV relationship by examining incidence rate ratios (IRR). Specific indirect effects were examined to determine whether the four SCT constructs (attachment, commitment, belief, involvement) mediated the neglect-EAV relationship. Results. Only 11% (n = 38) reported engagement in any EAV but nearly twice as many females (n = 2 4) than males (n = 14) reported EAV. The relationship between neglect and EAV was not significant (IRR = 1.04). Social bonds did not mediate the neglect-EAV relationship, although weaker commitment (B = -0.413; p < .05) and attachment (B = -0.385; p < 0.05) predicted higher EAV rates. However, there was a significant effect of peer criminality on the rate of EAV. Conclusion. Though limited by lack of statistical power, this study demonstrated that social bonds are influential on the perpetration of violence in early teens. Social bonds, however, do not appear to mediate the neglect-EAV relationship. Further testing of this conceptual framework and exploration of sex differences are warranted. Efforts to facilitate strong attachments to caregivers, prosocial peers, and institutions are worth considering as preventive strategies.
Date of publication
Resource type
Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • "... in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education."
  • Runyan, Carol Wolf
Place of publication
  • Chapel Hill, NC
  • Open access

This work has no parents.