Understanding How Cumulative Victimization Predicts Future Victimization Risk: Relevance of Cognitive Versus Social Mediation

Published date01 December 2022
Date01 December 2022
Subject MatterArticles
Understanding How
Cumulative Victimization
Predicts Future Victimization
Risk: Relevance of Cognitive
Versus Social Mediation
Thomas Wojciechowski
Cumulative victimization represents the summation of victimization experiences across multiple
contexts, with greater accumulation generally predicting greater dysfunction than less accumulation
of exposures. Past research has indicated that cumulative victimization predicts increased risk for
future revictimization also. The dual systems model may help to understand this relationship. This
framework comprises constructs of sensation-seeking and impulse control in developmental con-
text. Deviant peer association may provide a social factor that helps to understand this relationship.
Victimization has been found to influence all of these constructs identified here. It is predicted that
increased accumulation of victimization experiences may drive variation in these constructs that
results in elevated risk for revictimization. This study sought to test the theory that each of these
three constructs independently mediated the cumulative victimization–revictimization relationship.
The Pathways to Desistance data were used in analyses. This sample was comprised of 1,354 juvenile
offenders followed for 7 years after a recent adjudication prior to baseline measurements. The first
three waves of data were used in analyses. Generalized structural equation modeling was used to
test for the relationships of interest. A bootstrapping process of computing standard errors was
carried out to determine significance of mediation effects. Results indicated that increased cumu-
lative victimization scores at baseline predicted increased probability of experiencing victimization at
Wave 3. This relationship was attenuated by about 15% when all mediators were added to the model
and the relationship remained significant. Further analyses indicated that the specific indirect effect
running through deviant peer association was significant, as was the total indirect effect. Findings
indicate that increases in cumulative victimization may result in increased affiliation with deviant
peers that further increases their future victimization risk. Service providers for survivors of vio-
lence should focus on screening of social relationships of those they provide care for in order to
assess safety concerns.
School of Criminal Justice, Michigan State University, MI, USA
Corresponding Author:
Thomas Wojciechowski, School of Criminal Justice, Michigan State University, MI 48824, USA.
Email: wojcie42@msu.edu
Criminal Justice Review
ª2021 Georgia State University
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/07340168211015725
2022, Vol. 47(4) 417–433
criminal victimization, quantitative methods, other, crime over the lifecourse, crime/delinquency
Past research has indicated that i ndividuals who have experienc ed victimization have high rate s of
being revictimized later in life (Pantalone et al., 2015; Walker et al., 2019). Cumulative victimi-
zation, or the number of different types of domains within which one has experienced victimiza-
tion, has been found to increase this risk for future victimization as well (Cole et al., 2008; Edalati
et al., 2016). While this is a well-established relationship, there is less consensus as to why this
phenomenon exists. There exist many competing theories as to why this may occur, ranging from
psychological to sociological explanations. The present study sought to understand why increased
cumulative victimization scores in childhood/early adolescence predicts increased risk of experi-
encing victimization later in life. Psychological (impulse control; sensation-seeking) and socio-
logical (deviant peer association) variables were tested to determine whether they mediated this
relationship. It was proposed that increased cumulative victimization early in the life course led to
variation in these constructs of interest and that this variation was associated with increased risk
for experiencing victimization. These relationships were tested using longitudinal data in order to
establish temporal ordering in causal relationships of interest. The data utilized in this study were
from juvenile offenders, as population established as having elevated risk for experiencing victi-
mization (Baglivio et al., 2014).
Cumulative Victimization as a Predictor of Revictimization Risk
While past research has indicated that individuals who are victimized early in life may be at elevated
risk to experience victimization again later in life (Barnes et al., 2009; Widom et al., 2008), this risk
may be compounded by the degree of severity of this victimization. Past research has noted diffi-
culties in the measurement of victimization in a general sense that may lead to underreporting of
experiences (Smith, 1994). Additional issues arise when attempting to operationalize what is meant
by victimization severity. Understanding cumulative victimization in terms of the number of types
of trauma that a person has experienced is one means of understanding severity of trauma exposure
that has been used in prior research (Kennedy et al., 2014; Mounier & Andujo, 2003). Cumulative
victimization describes patterns of victimization that may occur across multiple domains (Grasso
et al., 2013; Kennedy et al., 2014; Mustanski et al., 2016); thus, providing a victimization variety
score. This measurement is often used because of issues with recall bias related to trauma exposure
frequency, as individuals suffering from long-term patterns of trauma may lack the capacity to be
precise in recalling this aspect of trauma exposure (Skogan, 1981; 1986; Wolfer, 1999). As such,
variety of victimization exposure can act as a proxy measure of severity of victimization exposure
and has been used by past research in various ways to assess victimization severity (Finkelhor et al.,
2005; Wojciechowski, 2020). While victimization in one or multiple domains may both lead to
iatrogenic outcomes, greater mental health problems are observed among individuals who score
higher in variety and have thus accumulated more victimization (Dierkhising et al., 2019; Evans
et al., 2014; Ford et al., 2010; Golder & Logan, 2011; Turner et al., 2006). One example of this was
observed by Yoder et al. (2019), as they found that the cumulative victimization-revictimization risk
was partially mediated by increased trauma symptomatology.
This indicates validity for this oper-
ationalization of victimization severity, as individuals reporting greater cumulative victimization
scores generally report greater dysfunction; thus, indicating greater severity of victimization. Con-
sidering the impacts that greater cumulative victimization appears to have on psychological and
behavioral outcomes, this dysfunction may help to understand revictimization risk later in life. It
418 Criminal Justice Review 47(4)

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