One criterion of whether a personal trouble should be considered a social problem is the level of harm caused by the trouble. While there is not an abundance of research on the impact of adolescent maltreatment, there is sufficient research to document the harmful consequences of the abuse and neglect of adolescents. Melissa Jonson-Reid and Richard Barth (2000) examined data collected by child welfare agencies. The children whose first report of child maltreatment occurred after age 14 were more likely to be jailed than victims of maltreatment whose first report occurred before they were 14 years old. John Eckenrode and his colleagues (2001) compared a sample of children and their mothers when the children were 15 years old. There was no difference in outcome for the children first maltreated before adolescence compared to those whose first abuse or neglect occurred when they were teenagers. In other words, the consequences of the maltreatment were the same—irrespective of when it first occurred. Compared to children who were never maltreated, the children whose first abuse or neglect began in adolescence demonstrated earlier-onset negative behaviors.

Carolyn Smith and her colleagues (Smith, Ireland, & Thornberry, 2005) carried out a comprehensive analysis of data collected from 1,000 urban youths as part of the Rochester Youth Development Study. Of the 884 subjects analyzed for the study, slightly less than one in 10 (9.3%) had substantiated reports of abuse in adolescence. The most common form of maltreatment was physical abuse. Being maltreated as a teenager increases the odds of arrest, general and violent criminal offending, and illicit drug use.

Overall, it is clear that the maltreatment of adolescents is extensive and has significant harmful consequences. The harmful consequences extend across the lifespan.

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