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Juvenile offending trajectories : pathways from child maltreatment to juvenile offending, and police cautioning in Queensland

Abstract

This is the final report of a project funded by the Criminology Research Council. The original title of the project, in the names of Dr Anna Stewart and Dr Susan Dennison, was 'Police cautioning in Queensland: the impact of juvenile offending trajectories'. The project builds on a previous study, 'Pathways from child maltreatment to juvenile offending' (2002), which demonstrated clear links between child maltreatment and subsequent juvenile offending in Queensland children born in 1983. This project re-examines these links by examining two Queensland birth cohorts, 1983 and 1984, rather than one. In addition to utilising the same child protection and juvenile justice data from the Queensland Department of Families that was included in the previous report, the project includes analyses of data from the Queensland Police Service regarding police cautions. The study examines the timing, frequency and type of maltreatment and subsequent outcomes for children, including the question of whether clusters of children with similar maltreatment experiences follow the same trajectories into adolescence. The project also examines the effectiveness of police cautioning as a form of diversion for young people, with a focus on the question of whether police cautioning differs in its impact on reoffending among young offenders with, versus without, a history of child maltreatment. The study confirms the link between child maltreatment and juvenile offending found in the earlier study, but also highlights the disturbing number of children who are repeatedly maltreated, the disturbing number of offences that are accounted for by repeat offenders, the disturbing relationship between repeat maltreatment and offending, and the disturbing relationship between Indigenous status, maltreatment and offending. The timing, frequency and type of maltreatment were also found to be significant predictors of whether maltreated children offended in adolescence, as was the gender of the child and Indigenous status. In particular, young people whose final maltreatment occurred in adolescence or persisted into adolescence were more likely to offend than children whose maltreatment was confined to childhood. Children who were repeat victims of maltreatment were also more likely to offend than those children exposed to a single maltreatment incident, while physical abuse and neglect also appeared to significantly increase the risk of later offending compared with sexual abuse and emotional abuse. With respect to police cautioning, the study finds that the majority of young people who receive a caution never commit another recorded offence, while of those who do reoffend, cautioned children commit fewer subsequent offences and their offences are associated with less serious court outcomes than children who had their first offence finalised in court. The findings suggest that police cautioning is likely to be an efficient way to respond to first time offenders and may even serve to deter some young people form further offending.

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