, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 87-110

Comparing Self-Reports and Official Records of Arrests

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Abstract

We compared measures of self-reported arrests and official arrests for 676young adults with a history of child abuse and/or neglect and 520 nonabusedand nonneglected controls matched on age, sex, race, and approximate familysocial class. Findings reveal considerable concurrent validity between thetwo sources overall. But there is also evidence of differences by gender,race/ethnicity, age at time of arrest, conviction status, and type ofoffense. Abused and neglected subjects did not appear to differ from thecontrol group in the extent of underreporting of known offenses, however,the groups did differ in the degree of “positive bias”—offensesnot found in arrest records. Abused/neglected subjects self-reportedproportionately more offenses not known to police compared to controls. Thisresult suggests that findings from previous studies on the relationshipbetween childhood victimization and later criminality, as measured byarrests, may have underestimated the magnitude of this relationship.