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The risk of violence following childhood maltreatment is uncertain. This meta-analytic review identified prospective studies that have examined this association. We systematically searched three electronic databases (PsycINFO, EMBASE, and MEDLINE) and completed a targeted search on Google Scholar. These were supplemented with scanning reference lists and correspondence with authors. We considered non-English-language and unpublished studies. Studies were included if childhood maltreatment was measured before age 18 years and occurred before violent outcomes. We identified 18 eligible studies with data on 39,271 participants. We conducted meta-analysis to calculate odds ratios ( ORs) using random-effects models. Heterogeneity was explored through subgroup analyses and meta-regression. The overall OR of violent outcomes in childhood maltreatment was 1.8 (95% confidence interval [1.4, 2.3]) with substantial heterogeneity ( I2 = 92%). Meta-regression suggested that risk of violence following childhood maltreatment was more elevated in samples with higher percentage of females, in higher quality investigations, in studies with case-linkage methods compared to that followed-up participants over time using a prospective cohort design, when general population or matched controls were used rather than selected population controls, and when violent outcomes were ascertained in older individuals. In conclusion, the risk of later violence perpetration was modestly increased in individuals with a history of childhood maltreatment. Preventative strategies and interventions for childhood maltreatment may have an important role in violence reduction. Methodological issues and recommendations for future research are discussed.

Original publication




Journal article


Trauma Violence Abuse

Publication Date



child abuse, neglect, violence exposure, violent offenders