Maltreatment and delinquency: Examining the contexts of offending amongst child protection-involved children

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Child protection-involved children experience disproportionately high criminal justice system contact, yet little is known about the circumstances in which such children offend. This study sought to identify the contexts in which this group of children offend and factors associated with children being charged in each context. A mixed-methods analysis of Children’s Court case files was conducted utilising a cross-sectional sample of 300 children who came before three Children’s Criminal Courts in Victoria, Australia, and who also had statutory Child Protection involvement. Three key contexts of offending were identified: adolescent family violence (AFV), residential care-based offending and group-based offending. A total of 33 per cent of children had engaged in AFV (23 per cent had AFV-related charges), 36 per cent of children ever placed in residential care acquired charges relating to their behaviour in these settings, while 44 per cent of children had engaged in group-based offending. More than one-third of children (38 per cent) also had criminal charges stemming from justice system interactions (e.g. resisting arrest). Children’s cumulative neurodevelopmental, mental health and substance abuse challenges correlated with offending in each context. Strategies to reduce youth justice contact amongst child protection-involved children should consider systems responses to AFV and behavioural challenges in residential care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2191-2211
Number of pages21
JournalThe British Journal of Social Work
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020


  • Challenging behaviour
  • Child protection
  • Children and adolescents
  • Residential care
  • Youth justice

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