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Maturing Out of Victimization: Extending the Theory of Psychosocial Maturation to Victimization

A research team led by Amber L. Beckley, at Stockholm University reports an association between adolescents becoming more psychosocially mature as they age and declining levels of violent victimization in the form of threats and assault.

Beckley, AL, et al. (2021). Maturing Out of Victimization: Extending the Theory of Psychosocial Maturation to Victimization. Journal of Developmental and Life-Course Criminology. 2021. doi: 10.1007/s40865-021-00182-8

A research team led by Amber L. Beckley, at Stockholm University reports an association between adolescents becoming more psychosocially mature as they age and declining levels of violent victimization in the form of threats and assault. These findings are based on a study that followed 978 adjudicated US adolescents for a period of 7 years. Psychosocial maturation describes the processes that lead to responsible decision making and normative social behavior. On average, psychosocial maturation increased as adolescents aged and this process corresponded with decrease in victimization. Declining victimization with age has been found in nationally representative samples from the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, and other European countries. The results of this study suggest that teaching adolescents how to make responsible decisions may lower their risk of victimization.


Past research has shown that the risk and frequency of victimization peaks during adolescence and declines with age. Some have suggested that this pattern is due to adolescents engaging in high-risk activities, their impulsivity, and their aggression. However, these factors only explain a modest amount of victimization, suggesting other mechanisms may be at work. Using the Pathways to Desistance longitudinal study of adjudicated adolescents, we tested the association victimization during adolescence and psychosocial maturation. 
We found that increasing levels of psychosocial maturation were associated with decreasing rates of victimization.
(1)    On average, psychosocial maturation increased as adolescents aged. At the same time, victimization risk decreased.
(2)    Increased psychosocial maturation was associated with lower risk of victimization after controlling for criminal behavior, childhood victimization, and demographic factors.
 

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