Cycle Violence Theory

reckedenwaldDr. Amy Reckdenwald is an assistant professor at UCF in the department of sociology who is extremely passionate about her work and making a difference. Her current research interest is focused on male sex offenders and the impact prior abuse has on their behavior.  According to Reckdenwald, the idea is that abuse within the family can be passed from one generation to the next- referred to as the intergenerational transmission of violence. A more general explanation of the link between abuse and subsequent delinquency and offending has been denoted by scholars as the cycle of violence.  

However, she says, “It is important to note that the majority of abused children do not grow up and abuse their own children or become involved in other types of violence. Research simply suggests that being abused puts an individual at an increased risk of becoming an offender themselves later in life.”

Her most recent study was an examination of abuse and offending patterns for a sample of 624 convicted sexual offenders in a federal correctional institution in Canada. Those being examined had received a prison sentence of at least two years between 1994 and 2005.  Reckdenwald and her colleagues, Dr. Christina Mancini and Dr. Eric Beauregard, were interested in the impact of various types of abuse (physical, psychological and sexual) in childhood adolescence on three types of subsequent offending in adulthood (violent, sexual and total offending).

She said, “We wanted to determine, for example, whether experiencing sexual abuse resulted in committing more sex crimes as an adult than experiencing physical abuse or psychological abuse did in this group of offenders.”

The study demonstrated the lasting effects of abuse experienced early in life on subsequent offending, and that the type of abuse does in fact have a differential impact on offending. According to their study it appears that these offenders learned how to treat others through the type of abused they received.

Specifically, results from our study indicated three important findings in relation to our main predictors of interest even with the addition of controls – (1) experiencing prior psychological abuse was related to committing more total offenses; (2) experiencing prior physical abuse was associated with committing more violent offenses; and (3) experiencing prior sexual abuse was related to committing more sexual offenses,” Reckdenwald explained.

She and her colleagues are now working on an extension of this research. They will be examining how self-image plays a role in the abuse-offending link.

According to Reckdenwald, “The results indicate that poor self-image partially mediates the relationship between child abuse and the extent of sex offending in adulthood.”

Her research has found that if prevention efforts focus not only preventing child abuse, but also on increasing the self-esteem of individuals with a history of abuse then future sex offending may be able to be prevented.



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