Child maltreatment and adult criminal behavior: Does criminal thinking explain the association?

Lorraine E. Cuadra, Anna E. Jaffe, Renu Thomas, David DiLillo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Criminal thinking styles were examined as mediational links between different forms of child maltreatment (i.e., sexual abuse, physical abuse, and physical neglect) and adult criminal behaviors in 338 recently adjudicated men. Analyses revealed positive associations between child sexual abuse and sexual offenses as an adult, and between child physical abuse/neglect and endorsing proactive and reactive criminal thinking styles. Mediation analyses showed that associations between overall maltreatment history and adult criminal behaviors were accounted for by general criminal thinking styles and both proactive and reactive criminal thinking. These findings suggest a potential psychological pathway to criminal behavior associated with child maltreatment. Limitations of the study as well as research and clinical implications of the results are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1399-1408
Number of pages10
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Child maltreatment
  • Cognitive distortions
  • Criminal behavior
  • Criminal thinking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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