Longitudinal and cumulative adverse childhood experiences in a sample of Australian juveniles convicted of sexual offenses

Dr Danielle Harris1, Ms Stephanie McInerney

1Dr Danielle Harris, Mt Gravatt, Australia

This study replicates recent work by Levenson et al., (2017) and Hall et al., (2018) to provide a cultural comparison of self-reported Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) in a sample of Australian adolescents adjudicated for sexual offenses. Our results indicate an extraordinary prevalence of physical and emotional abuse and neglect, chaotic family life, and parental mental health challenges when compared to similar samples internationally. The Griffith Youth Forensic Service explicitly prioritizes those cases who are identified to be high risk, high need, remote, and indigenous. Although these results are somewhat unsurprising, the sheer magnitude and frequency of these ACE scores is cause for concern. Unlike previous examinations of ACEs, we also explore the differential impact of experiencing trauma in multiple categories and situations and describe the implications of cumulative trauma for our sample, and for the community more broadly. Finally, we explore the nature and extent of ACEs over time by examining the temporal ordering of these experiences at an individual level. This longitudinal perspective allows for a particularly rich understanding of a person’s childhood development than traditional cross-sectional level data can.


Danielle Arlanda Harris is the Deputy Director-Research of the Griffith Youth Forensic Service and a Senior Lecturer in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Griffith University.  Her research examines sexual aggression through a life course perspective, examining onset, specialization/versatility, desistance, and related public policy. She has published more than 30 articles and book chapters and has given over 50 presentations at international conferences. Her study of civilly committed sex offenders in Massachusetts was funded by the Guggenheim Foundation and she received a grant from the California Sex Offender Management Board for a statewide survey of community supervision practices. She sits on the executive board of directors of the Australia and New Zealand Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abuse. Her first book—which draws on the narratives of men convicted of sexual offenses and released from custody—was released in December.