Identifying patterns of delinquency and victimization and their associations with mental disorders: a population-based investigation among Ontario children
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Childhood and early adolescence are a critical period when individuals are at greater risk of engaging in delinquent behaviours – such as theft, vandalism, and assault – as committers, victims, or both. Current data on delinquent behaviours among children in the Canadian context are limited. However, a 2012 report found that 37% of Canadian children under 20 reported having engaged in at least one of these delinquent behaviours in their lifetime and that 40% had been victimized at least once in the past year. Similarly, the transition between childhood and early adolescence has been shown to be when most mental health disorders develop. While the majority of children with mental disorder do not participate in delinquent behaviors, mental disorders are more prevalent among individuals accused of, or victimized by crime (39% and 37%), than in the general population (26%). Delinquency or victimization can further compound existing health and social inequities related to mental disorder, previous trauma, or low socioeconomic status that dampens health, social, and economic trajectories throughout the lifespan. Given their high prevalence, long-term effects, and associations with other poor health behaviours and outcomes, delinquency and victimization among children is of public health concern. Typically, research has examined delinquency and victimization separately when determining their associations with health outcomes despite knowledge that delinquency and victimization often co-occur. Further, while children spend most of their time at home and school, findings from both settings are not often investigated together. There has also been limited study of delinquency, victimization, and mental health in the general population. To address these knowledge gaps this dissertation examined differences in how parents and teachers report delinquency, what classes of delinquency and victimization are present among children, and how these classes are associated with mental disorders. Specifically, the study objectives were to: 1) determine the prevalence of delinquency and victimization among children; 2) define the level of agreement between parent and teacher reports of child delinquency; 3) examine the effects of child and informant characteristics on level of agreement; 4) identify specific patterns of delinquency and victimization across home and school settings; 5) examine the relationships between latent class membership and child and informant characteristics; 6) delineate the associations between latent classes and mental disorders; and 7) explore the moderating effect of covariates on the associations between latent classes and mental disorders. To accomplish these objectives the analyses used data from the 2014 Ontario Child Health Study and included children aged 4-14 years. The first manuscript developed a trifactor model to examine levels of agreement between parent and teacher reports of delinquent behaviours, and the effects child and informant characteristics had on levels of agreement. Results showed low levels of agreement between parents and teachers. Further, older child age, female reporting parents, lower income households, immigrant households, and parental depression were associated with greater agreement between parents and teachers. Lower parental education and lower teacher experience were associated with lesser agreement. These findings indicate that children exhibit delinquent behaviours differently between home and school settings. The second manuscript used latent class analysis to identify four classes of children, indicating patterns of co-occurrence of delinquent behaviors and victimization experiences: low victimization and low delinquency, moderate victimization and moderate school delinquency, high victimization and moderate home delinquency, and high victimization and high home and school delinquency. Results revealed that child sex, household income, ethnicity, parental education, and parental depression were associated with differences in class membership. These findings suggest that distinct subgroups of delinquent behaviours and victimization are present among children and that child and parent characteristics have an effect on the likelihood of membership. The third manuscript conducted multinomial regression analysis to provide evidence on the associations between the determined latent classes and mental health disorders, and if child and informant characteristics moderated these associations. The results displayed that the high victimization and moderate home delinquency class was associated with both internalizing and externalizing disorders, while the high victimization and high home and school delinquency and moderate victimization and moderate school delinquency classes were associated with externalizing disorders. None of the covariates tested moderated these associations. These findings suggest that differential associations exist between latent classes of delinquency and victimization and mental health disorders. This body of research fills a critical gap in terms of knowledge of how child delinquency and victimization co-occur across home and school contexts, and associations with internalizing and externalizing disorders. Taken together, these findings conclude that mental health and social behaviour interventions should account for different patterns of delinquency and victimization and adopt a trauma-informed approach. Due to the high prevalence of delinquent behaviours and experiences of victimization, universal prevention programs should be implemented to reduce frequency and worsening impact and behaviours. Future longitudinal research should investigate the temporality of delinquent behaviours, victimization, and mental health to strengthen understandings of these items and points for effective interventions.
Cite this version of the work
Alexander Luther (2023). Identifying patterns of delinquency and victimization and their associations with mental disorders: a population-based investigation among Ontario children. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/20035