Childhood abuse and delinquency: a descriptive study of institutionalized female youth in Singapore



Publication Details

Chu, C., Thomas, S. DM. & Ng, V. PY. (2009). Childhood abuse and delinquency: a descriptive study of institutionalized female youth in Singapore. Psychiatry Psychology and Law, 16 (Suppl 1), S64-S73.


Childhood abuse experiences appear prevalent in institutionalized children and youth, but research to date has been limited. Moreover, there is no published study that has examined the issue of childhood abuse and delinquency within institutionalized children and youth in Singapore. This study was cross-sectional in design with follow-up criminal record checks. Data were collected from multiple data sources including official records, structured clinical interviews, and self-report questionnaires on 79 adolescent female residential youth. Two thirds reported having experienced childhood abuse and a higher proportion reported having previously engaged in self-harming behaviours. Participants with multiple types of abuse reported being abused at a younger age, were more likely to be subjected to repeated physical abuse, to have overdosed on medication, and to have reported more health and sexual concerns and trauma symptomatology than those who reported either experiencing one or no previous types of abuse. Fourteen (18 percent) of the sample had been convicted of further criminal offences over a 6 1/2 year follow-up. The adolescents with histories of multiple types of abuse in childhood presented with more health concerns and traumatic symptomatology, self-reported delinquency, as well as past self-harming behaviour during their institutional stay. Identification of these additionally vulnerable adolescents has important clinical implications for identification, assessment and intervention planning.

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