How Negative Childhood Experiences Affect Crime

Child maltreatment continues to be a pervasive issue in modern society, and the consequences extend much farther than the individual home. The quality of a person’s childhood has been shown to play significantly into whether or not they grow up to be a chronic law-breaker.

What is Maltreatment?

Child maltreatment can fall into one of two categories: abuse and neglect. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that over one million children experience maltreatment every year.

The number one cause of childhood death due to injuries for kids above the age of one year is maltreatment, with approximately 1,500 lives lost every year. Half a million children are significantly injured annually. These tragic statistics on an individual level are directly related to the problems that society is facing as a whole, and the line between having a bad childhood and committing crimes as an adult is not as indirect as it may seem.

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Maltreatment in childhood and adolescence increases the probability of an individual growing up to commit crimes. This has even been observed in cases of twins where one of them had a generally positive childhood while the other was maltreated. When hard times come in the adult world and the neglected child is grown up and struggling, they may be unable to see any way of their situation other than resorting to criminal acts.

Factors That Lead to a Poor Childhood

Children who are deprived of social environments when they’re young often have trouble interacting with others as they grow older. Children who don’t experience sufficient social stimuli from seeing friends and extended family might not know how to cope with real-life situations when they happen in adulthood. These are formative socializing experiences where children learn to interact with others while feeling safe to express themselves, and it has a huge bearing on whether or not they’ll resort to criminal behavior later in life.

An unhealthy relationship between child and guardian is another key player. If there is no happy home to go to – or at least a safe place where the child can truly allow themself to be vulnerable – they may have a much harder time dealing with adult problems when the time comes.

When a child has suffered neglect or abuse, the notion that it will have an impact on their criminal record in the future isn’t just a possibility – it’s a likelihood. These kids are about twice as likely to become criminals later in life, and it’s not just limited to one or two types of crimes. A bad childhood has been shown to lead to criminal acts all across the board.

Effecting Lives in the Long Term

Some of the consequences of childhood maltreatment present themselves immediately and are easy to identify. But numerous studies have shown that the damage done by abuse and neglect in childhood spans much longer and is more insidious than what you see on the superficial level.

One of the common consequences of childhood maltreatment is antisocial behavior, which often comes from being deprived of social stimuli while growing up. Those antisocial tendencies tend to become reinforced as the person gets older, leading to relationships with others who exhibit the same types of antisocial behavior.

When seen in the long term, negative experiences in childhood have shown to be even more harmful than previously understood. This happens on an individual level as it significantly raises the likelihood of the child growing up to commit crimes, leading to the detriment of their life personally. But society as a whole must also suffer the consequential increase in crime and reduced public safety.