Gender Differences in the Maltreatment-Youth Offending Relationship: A Scoping Review

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Maltreated and child welfare-involved youth are over-represented in juvenile justice systems. These youth are at a greater risk of serious offending and justice system entrenchment relative to their non-maltreated peers. Understanding gender differences in the pathways to justice involvement and the nature of offending among maltreated children is critical for informing policy and practice. Yet, this body of evidence is fragmented. This scoping review identified and narratively synthesized evidence from studies reporting on gender differences in the individual characteristics, maltreatment experiences, child protection involvement and offending profiles of maltreated youth who offend. A comprehensive search of four databases generated 11,568 publications, from which 180 met the review’s inclusion criteria. These primary studies included participants aged 8–21 years with a history of childhood maltreatment and youth offending and reported at least one gendered analysis. Some consistent findings were reported across studies. A greater level of child welfare involvement and maltreatment exposure (particularly sexual abuse and multi-type maltreatment) was found for justice involved girls, relative to boys. Maltreated and child welfare-involved boys appear more likely to offend than girls, but findings about how gender moderates the maltreatment-offending relationship were inconsistent. Child welfare systems involvement (particularly foster care and residential care) appeared to be an important moderator for girls, and school performance mediated outcomes for boys. Across this body of evidence, few studies accounted for under-reporting of abuse and neglect when using youth self-report measures of maltreatment. Future research is needed which explicitly explores how gender moderates the maltreatment-offending relationship.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1140-1156
Number of pages17
JournalTrauma, Violence & Abuse
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023


  • child welfare
  • crossover youth
  • juvenile justice
  • maltreatment
  • out-of-home care
  • youth offending

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