Adverse Childhood Experiences and Juvenile Justice Outcomes: The Moderating Role of Individual and External Protective Processes


Bergquist, Becca







Justice-involved youth experience significantly higher rates of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), such as childhood maltreatment and household dysfunctions, compared to the general population. These experiences lead to a host of negative outcomes, including greater criminal involvement and the development of mental health disorders. Literature has emphasized the need to examine the role of protective factors, or individual traits and experiences that buffer the effects of adversity, on the development of these negative outcomes. This study conceptualized protective factors into two processes, specifically traits resulting from individual processes (i.e., the person’s self-systems) and from external processes (i.e., the person’s external environment) and sought to understand the predictive and moderating role of these processes on the relations between ACEs and the negative outcomes of interest. It was found that ACEs significantly predicted the likelihood for criminal involvement and development of mental health symptoms for justice-involved youth. Additionally, individual protective processes were predictive of less criminal involvement. Neither of the protective processes moderated the effects of ACEs on either negative outcome. Supplemental analyses provided further information concerning the findings for external protective processes, indicating significant associations and moderations effects for the external protective traits. Limitations, future directions, and implications of these findings are discussed. (Author abstract)