Journal of Child & Adolescent Trauma

, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp 351–364 | Cite as

The Relationship Between Trauma, Recidivism Risk, and Reoffending in Male and Female Juvenile Offenders

  • Nina A. VitopoulosEmail author
  • Michele Peterson-Badali
  • Shelley Brown
  • Tracey A. Skilling


Elevated rates of traumatic experience in the juvenile justice population are well established. Nevertheless, the role of trauma and its application to rehabilitation and recidivism in a criminal justice context remains hotly debated, particularly for female youth. The Risk-Need-Responsivity framework, the predominant model for risk assessment and case management in juvenile justice, does not consider trauma to be a risk factor for offending. This study examined– Posttraumatic Stress symptomology, maltreatment history, and childhood adversity – in relation to RNR risk factors for reoffending (criminogenic needs) and recidivism in a sample of female and male juvenile offenders. Rates of PTS symptomology, maltreatment, and childhood adversity were significantly higher in this sample compared to prevalence in the general population. Females were more likely to have experienced maltreatment. Several maltreatment and childhood adversity types were significantly related to criminogenic needs. PTS symptomology and adversity were not significant predictors of recidivism when entered alongside criminogenic needs; however, maltreatment was the strongest predictor of recidivism for both male and female youth in a model that included criminogenic needs. Gender did not moderate the relationship between maltreatment and recidivism. The importance of considering youths’ maltreatment history in their rehabilitative care is discussed.


Maltreatment PTSD Childhood adversity Youth justice Risk need responsivity (RNR) Gender differences 



We gratefully acknowledge the clinicians at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health’s Child, Youth and Family Program and the cooperation of the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services of the Province of Ontario. The authors would like to express their deep appreciation to Kathy Underhill, formerly of the Program Effectiveness, Statistics and Applied Research Unit of the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services and Mr. Justice Brian Weagant of the Ontario Court of Justice for their contributions to this study. This research was supported by Grant number 410101516 from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) to Michele Peterson-Badali and Tracey Skilling, and a SSHRC doctoral scholarship to Nina Vitopoulos.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Disclosure of Interest

This research is based on a portion of Nina Vitopoulos’ PhD thesis, submitted to the Ontario Institute of Studies in Education/University of Toronto. On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

Ethical Standards and Informed Consent

All procedures followed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation [institutional and national] and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2000. Informed consent was obtained from all patients for being included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nina A. Vitopoulos
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Michele Peterson-Badali
    • 1
  • Shelley Brown
    • 3
  • Tracey A. Skilling
    • 2
  1. 1.Applied Psychology and Human Development, Ontario Institute for Studies in EducationUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Child, Youth and Family ProgramCenter for Addiction and Mental HealthTorontoCanada
  3. 3.Department of Psychology and Institute of Criminology and Criminal JusticeCarleton UniversityOttawaCanada

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