Date of Award

Fall 2018

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

David Finkelhor

Second Advisor

Heather Turner

Third Advisor

Cesar Rebellon


Objective: The objective of this dissertation is twofold. The first objective is to summarize the literature on poly-victimization (PV) with a focus on what relationships have been tested and how poly-victimization has been operationalized in the field. The second objective is to replicate and expand the literature by empirically testing the effect of poly-victimization on delinquency.

Design, Data, and Participants. This dissertation employs a mixed method approach made up of a systematic literature review and secondary data analysis. The systematic literature review summarizes 59 poly-victimization articles published between 2007 and 2017 that contain the terms “poly-victim” or “poly-victimization” in its title and/or abstract. The secondary data analysis is based on a nationally representative sample of 6,364 10 to 17-year-olds who self-reported their lifetime victimization experiences and their past-year delinquency involvement. The pooled dataset used in this dissertation is based on the aggregation of three repeated assessments collected in 3-year intervals between 2008 and 2014, the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence (NatSCEV). NatSCEV is a cross-sectional, U.S. based, national telephone survey conducted in English and Spanish.

Broader Impacts. This dissertation seeks to provide evidence-based knowledge that will inform both the imminent research agenda and the practical and clinical strategies designed to respond to poly-victimization. The systematic review will contribute to these objectives by identifying the gaps that exist in the poly-victimization literature and by summarizing the measurement issues surrounding its operationalization. The secondary data analysis will contribute to this by providing practitioners and clinicians the evidence needed to develop and implement the policies, practices, and strategies that can positively affect the dynamic relationship that exists between violence exposure and violence perpetration.

Results and Conclusion-Literature Review. Although much of the work has focused on evaluating the effect of PV on a host of adverse mental health outcomes, some work has been done to advance our understanding of adverse behavioral and social outcomes. The systematic literature review shows that most studies have focused on quantitatively evaluating the direct effects of PV using cross-sectional designs, adolescent respondents, and non-probability samples. The field can benefit from designing qualitative and/or mixed method studies that can complement each other and supplement what we already know about PV. Efforts should also be made to incorporate mediating and moderating factors into our research, thereby starting to explore more complex relationships. When quantitative efforts are pursued, focusing on obtaining probability samples and incorporating longitudinal designs will be most helpful given the current state of knowledge. Lastly, having multiple respondents can help triangulate information and address the ongoing debate on proxy interviews.

Results and Conclusion-Secondary Data Analysis. Ample evidence was found to conclude that poly-victimization predicts a variety of deviant, delinquent, and rule breaking behaviors. PV’s predicted 13 different types of delinquent behaviors. It was also found to be a stronger predictor of any delinquency, as compared to 10 other categories of victimization, namely property crime, physical assault, child maltreatment, sexual victimization, kidnapping, bullying victimization, online victimization and exposure to family, school, and community violence. The policy and practice implications of these findings are extensively discussed.