This study explores cultural perspectives on pathways from child maltreatment to delinquency in the U.S. and South Korea (hereafter Korea). The involvement of maltreated youth in delinquency is a persistent global concern. Involvement in the juvenile justice system compounds risks to children already vulnerable due to maltreatment and involvement in the child welfare system (Chapin & Griffin, 2005; Morris & Freundlich, 2004). What constitutes child maltreatment (Kobin, 2002; Wells & Johnson, 2016) and delinquency (Bartollas & Schmalleger, 2014) varies cross-culturally. These various definitions may affect the pathways from child maltreatment to delinquency. Cross-cultural comparative research on crossover youth is particularly important for the design and implementation of culturally sensitive policies and practices that prevent the involvement of maltreated children with diverse cultural backgrounds in the juvenile justice system. Guided by “universalism without uniformity (Shweder & Sullivan, 1993, p. 514)” from developmental cultural psychology, this study employed a cross-cultural, mixed methods study design (Haight & Bidwell, 2016) to examine cultural variations in understanding risks for involvement in delinquency of maltreated children in the U.S. and South Korea. Using an explanatory sequential mixed methods design, the initial quantitative analyses on risk factors for delinquency in both countries were followed by qualitative inquiries for the purpose of triangulation, contextualization, elaboration, and complementarity. In the quantitative component of this study, a prospective, longitudinal cohort study design was used to examine risk factors for delinquency in the U.S. and Korea, respectively. The U.S. quantitative study investigated delinquency rates over a 6-year period and factors associated with the risk of early onset of delinquency for maltreated youth beginning in 3rd grade in academic year 2008-2009. Utilizing an integrated data set from state departments of Education and Human Services, and Judicial Branch, this study tracked the administrative records of 5,200 maltreated children for their first-time delinquency. Approximately 7% of maltreated youth (n = 332) were adjudicated as delinquent over a 6-year period from 3rd to 8th grade. The results of the Cox proportional hazard model indicated significant risk factors for early onset of delinquency in maltreated children: being male, belonging to particular racial minority groups (Black, Native Indian, and Hispanic youth), receiving a diagnosis of emotional/behavioral disabilities, receiving an out-of-school suspension, and experiencing more than three previous maltreatment incidents. The Korean quantitative study investigated the rates of delinquency, the impact of maltreatment on delinquency, and other risk factors for delinquency among South Korean youth. Using Korean Children and Youth Panel Survey data, this quantitative study followed two cohorts of middle (n=2,275) and high (n=2,272) school Korean youth until their first-time self-reported delinquency over a 4-year period from 6th to 9th grade for the middle school cohort and from 9th to 12th grade for the high school cohort. To create complete and balanced data, ten imputation data sets were generated, and the results present the pooled estimates of these data sets. Approximately 19% of middle and 11% of high school youth engaged in delinquency over the 4-year period. Maltreatment was associated with delinquency only for high school youth. The results of the discrete-time hazard model indicated that in both cohorts, males and youth with high levels of aggression were more likely to engage in delinquency. Consistent with the existing research in Western countries, the Korean quantitative study found additional risk factors including high levels of depression, negative attitudes toward school rules, father’s education less than high school, and low levels of self-control. This study also found some risk factors that require understanding of the sociocultural context in Korea including mother’s education more than high school and higher family income. The subsequent qualitative component of this mixed methods study examined cultural perspectives on the risk factors identified in the first two quantitative studies through the interpretations of U.S. and South Korean professionals. Cross-cultural analysis was conducted on data from the in-depth, semi-structured individual interviews with 21 U.S. and 20 Korean professionals serving various roles in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, including child protection workers, probation officers, attorneys, and judges. The professionals described common and culturally unique risk factors for delinquency in maltreated children. The common risk factors discussed by the U.S. and Korean professionals included: (1) psychosocial vulnerabilities of individual youth; (2) difficulties in parent-child relationships; and (3) challenges to systems’ interventions. Yet their interpretations were culturally nuanced, reflecting differences in the social, cultural, and practice contexts between the two countries: (1) external attribution (U.S.) or internal attribution (Korea) to youth’s psychosocial vulnerabilities; (2) parent history of their own trauma (U.S.) and a lack of parental responsibility (Korea) as as underlying difficulties in the parent-child relationships; and (3) a lack of cross-systems collaboration (U.S.) and a lack of accountability among child-serving systems (Korea) as challenges to systems’ interventions. Professionals’ discussions also revealed culturally unique risk factors in each country: racism (U.S.) and social justification for physical punishment (Korea). As the first cross-cultural, mixed methods study, findings of the current study can contribute to the conceptual understanding of the pathways from maltreatment to delinquency in various cultural contexts. The findings of the current study also can contribute to a broader knowledge base for the training of professionals pertaining to maltreated children at risk for delinquency involved in multiple child serving systems. Furthermore, study findings can facilitate new perspectives among professionals by illuminating their own taken-for-granted assumptions and socialization practices in addressing risks for delinquency in maltreated children. Therefore, findings of this study can promote different ways of thinking to strengthen existing practices and policies as well as to develop culturally tailored interventions that prevent maltreated ethnic minorities from engaging in delinquency.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2019. Major: Social Work. Advisors: Wendy Haight, Elizabeth Lightfoot. 1 computer file (PDF); xii, 211 pages.
Cultural Perspectives on Pathways from Child Maltreatment to Delinquency: A Cross-cultural Mixed Methods Inquiry in the U.S. and South Korea.
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