Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)



Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Jill Stinson

Committee Members

Ginni Blackhart, Julia Dodd, Megan Quinn, Stacey Williams


Exposure to more types of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) has been associated with a greater likelihood of general and sexual offending behaviors. However, few studies exist that consider both the impact of varied ACE exposures and community correlates on pathways to offending behaviors in adolescents who have engaged in sexually abusive behaviors. The current study examined these pathways using data collected from archival records of male adolescents (N= 285) who had received treatment for sexually abusive behavior at a youth facility. Structural equation modeling revealed a three-factor model for ACEs, which included: nonsexual abuse and neglect; household dysfunction; and sexual abuse and more passive indicators of sexual boundary problems in the home of origin. Direction and significance of paths between ACEs and the onset, persistence, and nature of maladaptive behaviors differed. Household dysfunction was related to an earlier onset and more persistent nonsexual delinquent offending and contact sexual offending. Conversely, sexual abuse and exposure to sexual boundary problems were associated with an earlier onset of sexually abusive behavior as well as indicators of adolescent-onset, less persistent, and nonviolent delinquency. Nonsexual abuse and neglect were uniquely associated with contact sexual offending. Thus, these findings suggest variations in ACE exposures differentially influence the development, severity, and continuance of nonsexual delinquent and sexually abusive behaviors among these youths. Socioecological variables associated with participants’ counties of origin, including social and economic environment and percentage of rurality, were not retained as covariates due to producing a poor model fit for the data. Additional study with regard to the role of community characteristics on delinquent and sexual offending behaviors is warranted.

Document Type

Dissertation - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.