You Learn What You Live: Prevalence of Childhood Adversity in the Lives of Juveniles Arrested for Sexual Offenses

Jill S. Levenson, Michael Baglivio, Kevin T. Wolff, Nathan Epps, William "Chip" Royall, Katherine C. Gomez, Dahlia Kaplan


ocial workers often find themselves working with children or adolescents who have been victims of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), including youths who have ended up in the juvenile justice system. Childhood trauma has been linked to negative health, mental health, and behavioral outcomes across the lifespan. The aim of this study was to examine the prevalence rates of child maltreatment and household dysfunction in the lives of juveniles who have been arrested for sexual offenses (JSO; n = 6,549). ACE prevalence rates for JSOs were compared by gender to juveniles arrested for other crimes, to adults arrested for sexual offenses, and to the general population. Youths in the delinquency system in Florida had much higher rates of high-ACE scores than the general population, indicating that they came from households where the accumulation and variety of early adversity is a salient feature in their lives. For those who have engaged in sexually abusive behavior, the existence of early maltreatment and family problems was prominent. Through a better understanding of the traumatic experiences of these youths, we can inform and enhance interventions designed to improve the functioning of sexually abusive juvenile clients and their families, and reduce risk of future recidivism.


Juvenile; sexual offense; ACE; adverse childhood experience; early adversity; trauma-informed care

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Copyright (c) 2017 Jill S. Levenson, Michael Baglivio, Kevin T. Wolff, Nathan Epps, William "Chip" Royall, Katherine C. Gomez, Dahlia Kaplan


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