About this research stream

Child maltreatment and youth offending are major public health and societal challenges. Childhood maltreatment – comprising physical, sexual and emotional abuse, neglect, and exposure to domestic violence – is a leading contributor to the development of mental disorders, drug use, self-injurious behaviour and suicide attempts, as well as social and behavioural disturbances across the lifecourse.

Our researchers focus on identifying the individual, social and contextual factors that contribute to the (re)occurrence of maltreatment, and on developing knowledge for preventative interventions to protect children and buffer them against the negative impacts of early trauma and adversity.

Furthermore, our research team has investigated models of effective assessment, intervention and management for working with young people who have had, or are at risk of, contact with the criminal justice system.

This includes research to improve understanding of the complex, overlapping needs of justice-involved youth, their offending pathways, and the strength and protective factors that promote desistance. Working with industry partners to translate research findings into policy and practice is a key theme of our team’s work.

Our research in this area focuses on:

  • understanding the drivers and impacts of child maltreatment, and the factors contributing to risk and resilience
  • valid models for risk or need assessment in child protection and interventions to prevent and respond to child maltreatment
  • understanding, assessment, intervention and management of youth antisocial behaviours (e.g. aggression, family violence, harmful sexual behaviour, firesetting)
  • effective early intervention, diversion and treatment models for fostering desistance from youth offending and improving mental health and social functioning

Current and recent projects

  • Understanding and disrupting pathways from childhood maltreatment to youth re-victimisation and offending
  • Validation of risk assessment measures for identifying and managing high-risk, court-involved families with childhood maltreatment concerns
  • Preventing repeat child exploitation material offending: An international pilot of the CEM-COPE
  • Improving understanding, risk assessment, and management of youth family violence
  • Mental health need and service utilisation among young users and victims of family violence 
  • Examining outcomes and continuity of firesetting in children and adolescents who set fires
  • Group conferencing effects on youth recidivism and elements of effective conferences
  • Development and evaluation of the Victoria Police Embedded Youth Outreach Project
  • Factors related to desistance from offending among court-involved youth
  • Best outcomes for young people who engage in harmful sexual behaviour
  • Effective management of problematic sexual behaviour in detained young people

Recent publications

Papalia, N., Spivak., B., Ashford, L., Guha, A., Luebbers, S., & Ogloff, J. R. P. (2023). Sexual abuse during childhood and all-cause mortality into middle adulthood: An Australian cohort study. Medical Journal of Australia. https://doi.org/10.5694/mja2.52089

Sheed, A., McEwan, T., Simmons, M., Spivak, B., & Papalia, N. (2023). Characteristics of young people who use family violence in adolescence and young adulthood: An age-based analysis. Journal of Family Violence. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10896-023-00529-3

Papalia, N., & Widom, C. S. (2023). Do insecure adult attachment styles mediate the relationship between childhood maltreatment and violent behavior? Development and Psychopathology. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0954579422001468

Sheed, A., Maharaj, N., Simmons, M., Papalia, N., & McEwan, T. (2023). The role of situational factors in child-to-parent abuse: Implications for assessment, management, and intervention. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology. https://doi.org/10.1177/0306624X231159

Johnston, K., & Tyler, N. (2022). The effectiveness of fire safety education interventions for young people who set fires: A systematic review. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 64, Article Number 101743. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.avb.2022.101743  

Sheed, A., Papalia, N., Spivak, B., McEwan, T., & Luebbers, S. (2022). Exploring the utility of the YLS/CMI for Australian youth in custody according to child protection history. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 28(4), 616-629. https://doi.org/10.1037/law0000362

Papalia, N., Dunne, A., Maharaj, N., Fortunato, E., Luebbers, S., & Ogloff, J. R. P. (2022). Determinants and outcomes of the therapeutic alliance in treating justice-involved youth: A systematic review of quantitative and qualitative research. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 25, 658-680. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10567-022-00407-2

Daff, E. S., McEwan, T.E., Luebbers, S. (2021). Australian adolescents’ experiences of aggression and abuse by intimate partners. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 36(9-10), NP5586-NP5609. https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260518801936   

Warner, B., Spivak, B., Ashford, L., Fix, R., Ogloff, J.R.P., & Shepherd, S. (2021). The impact of offender-victim cultural backgrounds on the likelihood of receiving diversion. Criminal Justice Policy Review, 33(3), 298-316. https://doi.org/10.1177/08874034211046313

Henshaw, M., Arnold, C., Darjee, R., Ogloff, J.R.P., & Clough, J.A. (2020). Enhancing evidence-based treatment of child sexual abuse material offenders: The development of the CEM-COPE Program. Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice no. 607. Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology. http://doi.org/10.52922/ti04787

Papalia, N. L., Shepherd, S., Spivak, B., Shea, D., Luebbers, S., & Fullam, R. (2019). Disparities in criminal justice system responses to first time juvenile offenders according to Indigenous status. Criminal Justice & Behavior, 46(8), 1067-1087. https://doi.org/10.1177/0093854819851830

Simmons, M., McEwan, T. E., Purcell, R., & Ogloff, J. R. P. (2018). Sixty years of child-to-parent abuse research: What we know and where to go. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 38, 31–52. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.avb.2017.11.001

Our other research programs

Contact the Centre for Forensic Behavioural Science

There are many ways to engage with us. Whether you’re a student, from the media or an organisation interested in our professional development and training programs or consulting services, contact us on +61 3 9214 3887 or via cfbs@swinburne.edu.au

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