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Adverse childhood experiences and delinquent behaviour: Predictors and mediating variables

Joana Sofia Teles Oliveira Martins1, Maria Alzira Pimenta Dinis2, Sónia Maria Martins Caridade3,4, Hélder Fernando Pedrosa E Sousa5, Andreia De Paiva Ribeiro De Moura6

1 Faculty of Psychology, Education and Sports, Lusófona University of Porto (ULP), Rua Augusto Rosa 24, 4000-098 Porto, Portugal

2 UFP Energy, Environment and Health Research Unit (FP-ENAS), University Fernando Pessoa (UFP), Praça 9 de Abril 349, 4249-004 Porto, Portugal

3 Faculty of Human and Social Sciences, University Fernando Pessoa (UFP), Porto 4249-004, Portugal

4 Interdisciplinary Center for Gender Studies (CIEG) of the Higher Institute of Social and Political Sciences of the University of Lisbon (ISCSP-UL), Lisboa 1300-663, Portugal

5 University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro, Department of Mathematics (DM. UTAD), Quinta de Prados, 5001-801 Vila Real, Portugal

6 Digital Human-Environment Interaction Lab (HEI-Lab), Lusófona University of Porto (ULP), Rua Augusto Rosa 24, 4000-098 Porto, Portugal


Received: 08/06/2020 – Accepted: 12/01/2021

DOI: 10.15761/0101-60830000000284


Background: Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) have been identified as a risk factor for the development of mental health and behavioural outcomes throughout life, including delinquent behaviours. This article focuses on the relationship between ACEs and delinquent behaviour (DB), seeking to identify predictors and mediating variables. Methods: The quantitative study comprised 175 Portuguese adolescents, aged 12 and 17 years of age (M = 14.99, SD = 2.26). Results: ACEs and exposure to traumatic events (ETE) are predictive of DB. Antisocial traits (AT) was found to be mediating the relationship between ACEs and DB, as well as the relation between ETE and DB. Conclusion: The results indicate that it is necessary that professionals in health behaviour field prevent and intervene in ACEs and in ETE, both predictors of DB. The results of this study allow to understand the role of ACEs in DB and its mediating variables, which must be considered to mitigate the harmful impact of ACEs in DB.

Martins JSTO / Arch Clin Psychiatry. 2021;48(1):75-82


Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), exposure to traumatic events (ETE), delinquent behaviour (DB), antisocial traits (AT), mediating variables.


Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are understood as the experience or early exposure to potentially traumatic events, such as abuse and maltreatment as well as living or growing in an environment that is harmful to the development1. The Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)2 conceptualizes and illustrates the ACEs model through a pyramid, in which the adverse experiences in childhood are represented at the base level, leading to social, emotional and cognitive impairments associated with the increased risk of adopting health risk behaviours and which include delinquent behaviour (DB) and substance use. At the top of the pyramid are illnesses, disabilities and social problems, late in life.

ACEs are highly prevalent between adolescents and young people, with a potential negative impact on their adaptive development and functioning3,4. The study of the relationship between ACEs and the health of individuals has shown that ACEs are associated with negative consequences in different dimensions, including physical, psychological, cognitive, behavioural, social and emotional problems5-10. Exposure to traumatic events (ETE) and ACEs also seem to be associated with increased use of health care, substance abuse, psychopathology, lower life satisfaction and risk of suicide11.

The literature has been identifying several types of ACEs, from experiencing physical abuse, neglect, exposure to interparental or other violence, family dysfunction, such as parents' mental illness or substance abuse12, which tend to co-occur13. In this sense, ACEs are considered a cumulative stressor14 and it has been argued that the unique experience of abuse is often the exception and not the rule15. In addition, it has been shown that prior victimization is a strong predictor of continued victimization throughout life13.

Juvenile delinquency has also been identified as a common behavioural response to ACEs14,16. Although there are several studies that prove the risk of ACEs in the development of various physical, psychological and behavioural problems in adolescence and adulthood, there is little research that focuses on the potential central role of ACEs in DB­16. DB can be classified as "acts that violate legal norms and are consensually considered as antisocial and non-social behaviours", being the result of an escalation of antisocial behaviour17. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition18 (DSM-V) included DB as a Behaviour Disorder (BD). There is empirical evidence connecting aspects of early development such as attachment quality, parental hostility, maternal depression, maltreatment and family conflicts with predisposition to develop DB patterns19-21. Emotional problems, sexual abuse and/or physical abuse prevent a healthy development and may trigger negative and adverse feelings, which may promote DB22. DB has been considered as a psychosocial developmental disorder, involving biological, behavioural and cognitive variables of the subjects, and contextual, such as family, social and negative adverse experiences, and should be understood in its complexity23,24. Although juvenile delinquency may be related to antisocial behaviour, the former can be differentiated from antisocial behaviour considering that antisocial behaviour encompasses behaviours disrespecting others and violating the norms of a given society, without necessarily infringing the current laws25. The consumption of psychoactive substances (CPS), namely the illicit drugs (e.g., amphetamines, cannabis, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, LSD (Lysergsäurediäthylamid) and hallucinogens)26, constituting a very prevalent DB among adolescents, highly vulnerable to substance abuse. CPS is high27 and abused children tend to develop drug abuse problems28. A Portuguese study by Caridade, Martins & Nunes29 identified a significant percentage of young people (58%) who took on various types of substance use (e.g., tobacco, alcohol and cannabis) very early, coexisting with certain less adequate and functional parenting practices, such as reduced parental supervision and control. A relationship between ACEs and CPS dependence during adolescence and later adulthood is also reported30,31. CPS can influence the occurrence of psychopathologies, with greater occurrence in the groups of individuals with multiple CPS32.

Research has also shown the capacity for positive integration and normative adjustment of individuals, despite the highly adverse experiences that occurred at an early age33. The impact of ACEs is mediated by the individual's way of overcoming or succumbing to adversity, which in turn is influenced by a set of variables inherent to the individual, the characteristics of the household in which it is inserted and the interaction with the surrounding environment34. Understanding the role of ACEs in DB thus requires the identification of predictors, as well as the variables that may mediate this relationship.

Adverse childhood experiences and mediating variables

The literature has shown that the effects of ACEs on the well-being and behavioural outcomes of young people are mediated by several risk and protective factors35,36. Among the various variables that have been associated with the multi-causality of ACEs, the age of occurrence of ACEs is identified3, but also Social Support (SS)37-39 or even Antisocial Traits (AT), analysed in the present study.

SS refers to the emotional or practical support given by the family and/or friends in the form of affection, company, care and information contributing to reduce the impact of ACEs40. It implies long-lasting patterns of attachment, essential to the physical and psychological integrity of individuals41. There is a negative relationship between ACEs and SS, a higher number of ACEs may be associated with less protection and SS42. The absence of SS or its reduced effectiveness is still considered a risk factor for CPS and DB43. ACEs inflicted by people close to children, such as parents and caregivers, may affect the way the quality of how SS is interpreted in adulthood. Empirical evidence reveals that recall associated with ACEs tends to be connected with a less positive perception of SS41-43. Another study by Brown & Shillington44 developed from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being, with 1054 adolescents, aged 11–17, concluded that protective adult relationships moderated the relationship between ACEs and substance use, but not delinquency. The hypothesis that lower levels of adult protective relationships and the presence of ACEs would be associated with increased substance use was thus confirmed by the authors.

AT is in line with the disruptive BDs45 characterized by a persistent pattern of difficulty in accepting and complying with rules. AT relate antisocial behaviours such as robberies, lies, fugues, destruction of properties, aggression to people and animals, with school-age prevalence, where hetero-aggressive behaviours predominate and, in turn, during adolescence, where antisocial behaviours predominate21. Children or young people with this disorder have little concern for the feelings, wishes, needs and well-being of those around them, with a low tolerance for frustration, high levels of irritability, recklessness and explosive temperament18.

There are two possible developmental trajectories in AT, the "early onset trajectory", which may arise with the appearance at preschool age, of behaviour problems (disobedience, scream, beat), and may progress in school age for more aggressive and non-aggressive behaviours (stealing, lying, cheating), and for aggravated adolescence symptoms (interpersonal violence and crimes against property), which may encompass wider contexts such as the community. The "late-onset trajectory" relates behaviours only arising during adolescence. When behaviours arise according to the first trajectory, frequency and severity tend to worsen over time, whereas when behaviours appear according to the second trajectory, there seems to be a more favourable prognosis46.

Studies have pointed out that some of the conditions contributing to the AT etiology are related to ineffective parental practices, deficits in family dynamics, influences of deviant peers, and low school connection or poor school performance47,48. Parental involvement in school activities is identified as a promising strategy for increasing students' educational results and social functioning, as demonstrated by the Portuguese study developed by Caridade, Dinis, Sani, Nunes & Azevedo49 with 333 Portuguese school personnel. The authors found that 80% of the professionals rating student’s general behaviour as bad, also rated parental involvement as poor.

Another explanation to AT is given by the theory of social learning, expressing that subjects who have been victims of abuse and/or exposure to violence are more likely to develop aggressive behaviour in the future, reproducing the experiences of family violence during child abuse, thus contributing in order that maltreatment in childhood will perpetuate abuse in adult life50.

Current study

The relationship between ACEs and subsequent DB has been understudied in Portugal. The mechanisms by which ACEs confer risk for specific problems are also largely unknown. The analysis and understanding of the mediating variables of the relationship between ACEs and DB is extremely important to mitigate the negative effects associated with ACEs and to better sustain intervention practices in this area. This study aims to understand if ACEs are related to DB (including CPS), seeking to identify predictors and explore the role of AT and SS as possible mediating variables, in Portuguese adolescents. The following hypotheses are investigated:

Hypothesis 1: Adolescents who experience any individual ACEs will be more likely to report DB (including CPS).

Hypothesis 2: ACEs are expected to be a predictor of DB (including CPS) in adolescence, with AT and SS as mediating variables.

Hypothesis 3: ETE is expected to be a predictor of DB (including CPS), with AT and SS as mediating variables.



The sample size was determined using Software G*Power 3.1.9. The sample consisted of 175 participants, 60 (34.3%) were students of two different grouping of schools of Portugal, and 115 (65.7%) attended two professional schools of the same municipality. Of the total number of young people, 97 (55.4%) are males and 78 (44.6%) are females. The mean age of the sample is 15 years old and age varies between 12 and 17 years old. With regard to schooling, the average is 9.19 years, corresponding to the 9th grade (SD = 1.34), between the 6th and the 11th grades. 123 (70.3%) live at home with both parents, 27 (15.4%) live at home with the mother, 16 (3.0%) are in another situation, corresponding to living at home with grandparents or close relatives, 4 (2.3%) reside with the father and 5 (2.9%) live in a host institution. Relating the father’s schooling, 81 (46.8%) reported primary education, 62 (35.8%) reported 4th grade or less, 19 (11.0%) secondary or professional education, and 11 (6.4%) higher education. Concerning the mother's schooling, 76 (43.4%) indicated elementary education, 50 (28.6%) the 4th grade or less, 28 (16%) secondary or professional education, and 21 (12%) higher education.


As inclusion criteria, adolescents, aged between 12 and 17 years old, of both genders, attending regular or professional education in the district of Porto, Portugal, were selected and, as exclusion criteria the selection included all participants under CPS, unable to complete the instruments, as well as children or young people presenting some type of cognitive deficit, or other disorder or physical condition preventing the proper understanding and/or correct completion of the questionnaires.

For the accomplishment of this study and data collection, authorization was requested from the Education Guardians/Legal Representatives, previously collecting informed consent as a means of obtaining permission for the child/youth to participate in the study, respecting the anonymity and confidentiality of the data, in accordance with the ethical procedures for the proper conduct of the research. The study has been conducted in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki and its latest revision.

Data collection was performed in a single time date between April and June 2018. Procedures involved in the collection and processing of data were in accordance with the Personal Data Protection Law No. 67/98 of October 2651 and Deliberation No. 227/2007 of May 2852, as well as the Deontological Code of the Order of Portuguese Psychologists53.


Sociodemographic questionnaire. It assesses the variables age, gender, marital status, level of schooling, monthly family income, residence situation, household members, occupational situation, level of schooling of the father and mother

Adverse Childhood Experiences and Exposure to Traumatic Events. Childhood History Questionnaire54, composed of 38 dichotomous and multiple-choice questions. Assesses 3 categories: experiences against the child or young person, dysfunctional family environment and neglect and is quoted through the calculation of Total Adversity, being 0 points for absence of adversity and 1 point for the presence of adversity;

Life Events Checklist-555, adapted to young people, being a self-response checklist, depicts potentially traumatic life events, being divided into two parts: consisting of 14 events, in which the answers can be being "happened", "I saw it happen", "I knew it happened", "I'm not sure", "does not apply" and a part consisting of 9 semi-open answer questions related to an event that the participant considers to have been the worst experienced, when applicable;

Delinquent Behaviour and Consumption of Psychoactive Substances. Adapted Self-reported Delinquency Scale56 is a self-response measuring the involvement of adolescents in illegal and antisocial activities and consumption of psychoactive substances. It was adapted for this study, consisting of 11 items, with a Likert-type response scale.

Antisocial Traits. Antisocial Process Screening Device (APSD-SR)57, a multidimensional psychometric measure specifically designed to assess psychopathic traits in adolescents. It consists of 20 items, quoted on an ordinal scale of 3 points assessing 3 factors, traits-callous / non-emotional, narcissism and impulsivity, with higher scores indicating characteristics associated with each factor.

Social Support. Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support58, built to measure satisfaction with perceived social support. It is a self-report instrument composed of 12 items, assessing satisfaction with perceived social support in 3 dimensions, namely (a) significant figure (n = 4); (b) family (n = 4) and (c) friends (n = 4), in which the subject should indicate the degree of agreement for each of the statement (if applicable), on a 6-position Likert scale. The total score for the scale can vary between 12 and 72, corresponding to higher scores, a perception of greater social support.

Statistical analysis

Statistical Program for Social Sciences (SPSS-26) was used for statistical analysis, including descriptive statistical analyses, allowing the synthesis of the data of the sample through a single value, and inferential statistical analyses, allowing to test the hypotheses under study.

A Pearson correlation analysis to explore the relationship between the variables under study, namely ACEs, ETE, DB, AT and SS, was performed. The analyses of hierarchical regression were also carried out, aiming to explore a possible mediating effect between SS, ACEs and DB (including CPS) and SS, ETE and DB (including CPS). The possible mediation relationship between AT, ACEs and DB (including CPS), as well as between AT, ETE and DB (including CPS) was also explored. In order to test mediation between variables, the model 4 of SPSS command Process v3.459, was used, a more robust way to deal with mediation, according to a growing literature body.


Descriptive analysis of variables

It is possible to observe that of the total number of participants (n = 175), 113 (66.5%) experienced at least one ACEs (Table 1).

Table 1. Results of Adverse Childhood Experience (ACEs) scale and assessed dimensions


n (%)

Total adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)



Emotional abuse



Physical abuse



Sexual abuse



Emotional neglect



Physical neglect



Divorced or separated parents



Exposure to domestic violence



Parents or other family with consumption of psychoactive substances (CPS)



Family member with a mental disorder or committing suicide



Arrested family member



Concerning ETE, participants related one or more exposure (Table 2).

Table 2. Results of Exposure to Traumatic Events (ETE) questionnaire

Traumatic event

n (%)


Exposure to some type of natural disaster




Experienced or heard of a close family member or close friend who had been exposed to a fire or explosion




Exposure to a transport accident




Suffered and/or were exposed to a major accident at school, at home or during a recreational activity




Exposure to physical aggression




Exposed or heard of someone close who had suffered gun-aggression




Exposure to sexual aggression




Exposure to another uncomfortable or unwanted sexual experience




Experienced life-threatening illness or injury




Exposure to severe human suffering




Exposure to sudden violent death




Exposure to unexpected accidental death




Caused or heard of someone close to them who caused pain, injury, serious injury or death to another person




Exposure to another extremely stressful event or experience




In respect to DB (M = 1.95, SD = 2.68), the results did not show a recurrent practice of this type of behaviour, however, regarding AT (M = 10.20, SD = 4.84), the results seem to lead in the sense of the practice or adoption of behaviours encompassed by this problem. In relation to SS (M = 62.70, SD = 9.28), the results in the 3 subscales reveal that the participants have and perceive support figures (Table 3).

Table 3. Mean and standard deviation of the quality variables




n (%)







Total adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)






Total delinquent behaviour (DB)








Total antisocial traits (AT)








Total social support (SS)








Subscale significant figure








Subscale family








Subscale friend








Relationship between ACEs and DB: predictors and mediating variables

The correlations between the main variables of the study are presented in Table 4. It can be verified that all variables are statistically correlated with each other.

Table 4. Correlation between social support (SS), exposure to traumatic events (ETE), adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), delinquent behaviour (DB), antisocial traits (AT) and Age.







1. Social support (SS)






2. Exposure to Traumatic events (ETE)







3. Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)






4. Delinquent behaviour (DB)






5. Antisocial traits (AT)






6. Age






Note. The DB variable includes the CPS variable.

The number of participants available for each correlation ranged from 166 to 175.

*p < .05, **p<.01, ***p<.001.

A linear regression analysis was performed to test the predictors of DB (including CPS). The results obtained (Table 5) show that all independent variables considered are individually predictors of DB (including CPS). The variable AT are the one that explains more of the variance of DB, 30%. ACEs can explain 12.3%, ETE 8.3% and SS 3.7% of the variance. When considered all these variables together in a multi regression model, ETE was not significative. The best significative model obtained have the ACEs, AT, SS and age as predictors variables, and can explain more that each of them individually, 43.3% variance of DB, F (4, 163) = 31.06, p < .001.

In order to test mediating effects between variables, the model 4 of SPSS command Process v3.459, was used:

The results of SS as mediating the relationship between ACEs and DB (including CPS) show no mediating effect. There is a significant total effect of ACEs to DB (B = .0686, SE = .0141, p < .001) and also a significant and similar direct effect (B = .0694, SE = .0170, p < .001), but a not significant indirect effect (B = -.009, Bootstrap 95% CI = [-.0226, .0189], BootStrapSE = .0102).

The results of AT as mediating the relationship between ACEs and DB (including CPS) show that it occurs in a full mediating effect, as the ACEs and DB (including CPS) relationship does not exist in presence of AT variable. Results give a significant total effect of ACEs to DB (B = .0686, SE = .0141, p < .001) but a not significant direct effect (B = .0249, SE = .0142, p = .0808), but there is a significant indirect effect (B = .0437, Bootstrap 95% CI = [.0205, .0709], BootStrapSE = .0131), resulting in a full mediating effect. The variable AT can capture almost 2/3 of the significant relationship of ACEs and DB (effect B = .0686 drops to B = .0437 in presence of AT).

The results of SS as mediating the relationship between ETE and DB (including CPS) show no mediating effect. There is a significant total effect of ETE to DB (B = .4544, SE = .1227, p = .003) also a significant direct effect (B = .3931, SE = .1340, p = .0038), but a not significant indirect effect (B = .0613, Bootstrap 95% CI = [-.0431, .1969], BootStrapSE = .0602).

The results of AT as mediating the relationship between ETE and DB (including CPS) show that it occurs in a full mediating effect. Results give a significant total effect of ETE to DB (B = .4544, SE = .1227, p = .003) but a not significant direct effect (B = .1547, SE = .1142, p = .1774), but as there is a significant indirect effect (B = .2998, Bootstrap 95% CI = [.1245, .5163], BootStrapSE = .0999), resulting in a full mediation. The variable AT can capture almost 2/3 of the significant relationship of ETE and DB (effect B = .4544 drops to B = .2998 in presence of AT).

Table 5. Linear regression analysis between variables with significative correlations

Model Variable












Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)

Delinquent behaviour (DB)





Antisocial traits (AT)

Delinquent behaviour (DB)





Social support (SS)

Delinquent behaviour (DB)





Exposure to Traumatic events (ETE)

Delinquent behaviour (DB)






Delinquent behaviour (DB)





Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)




Antisocial traits (AT)

Delinquent behaviour (DB)





Social support (SS)








Notes. The DB variable includes the CPS variable.

The number of participants available for each correlation ranged from 166 to 175.

 *p<.05; ** p<.01; *** p<.001.


After analysing the results, and relating the hypothesis 1, regarding the existence of an association between the main variables, the results were statistically significant, indicating a positive correlation between the 3 main variables: ACEs, ETE, and AT. This result predicts that adolescents exposed to ACEs, as well as to ETE, tend to present a greater predisposition regarding the practice of DB (including CPS), which is corroborated by the literature on this subject6,7,10,28. Regardless of the form and type of ACE and/or ETE, consequences can be diverse, significantly affecting the physical, social, behavioural, emotional and cognitive development of the subjects6. Thus, DB may function as a strategy in attempting to adapt and socialize in repressive contexts60. The relationship between the CPS and DB can also be explained, given that CPS can be considered as a facilitator or motivator of delinquent and violent actions, with the aggravation of association with groups of deviant peers61. It should be considered that adolescence is a phase of discovery and experimentation of personal and social boundaries62, reason why this relation should not be considered as of cause-and-effect.

Regarding the hypothesis 2, the exploration of the association between ACEs as a predictor of DB (including CPS) and AT and SS as mediating variables, was partially confirmed. In fact, it is observed that ACEs are predictive of the DB (including CPS), an expected result, considering what is reported in the literature11,19,20. Accordingly, the DB can be better explained in cases where the subjects experienced some type of adversity, since the DB is associated with intense psychological suffering, such as depression, anxious symptomatology and low self-esteem23, which are connected with the ACEs5,7,9,10. In respect to the second part of the hypothesis 2, namely if AT and SS played the role of mediators between the independent variable ACEs and the dependent variable DB (including CPS), only AT showed to be a total mediator of this relation. SS did not have any effect when included in the hierarchical regression model. This result is corroborated by the literature as a possible consequence of exposure to ACEs, to the extent that adversity can exert on the individual and on the development of his personality, a distorted view of the world and the interactions that surround it63. In turn, and given that AT is also associated with DB48,64, there is a mediating effect of AT in the relationship between ACEs and DB (including CPS). In this sense, AT can evolve into more serious typologies in adolescence and, extended to other contexts such as school and the community, being congruent with what is expected in the practice of DB21,25,46,48,49,64. The SS variable did not exert any mediating effect influence on the relationship between the ACEs and the DB (including CPS), oppositely to what the literature reports, i.e., SS did not function as an amortization factor for the consequences of ACEs and, in turn, in the practice of DB. This result can be explained, given that in the genesis of ACEs are often acts practiced by figures of support and trust, particularity those close to the subject, such as parents or caregivers, often influencing the way the quality of SS is interpreted37. The sample of this study relates children and young people, particularly in the adolescence phase, and thus, SS at this stage may not play the expected role, compared to other samples, which are not at risk. Since adolescence is a phase of development involving contextual and social changes, the perception of SS can be particularly difficult for young people exposed to ACEs63.

Finally, in regard to hypothesis 3, having as mediating variables the AT and SS: ETE is a predictor of DB (including CPS) as theoretically expected19-21. Concerning AT as mediator of this relationship, a full mediating effect was verified, as expected50,65,66. In fact, some studies50,67 point out that subjects who have been victims of abuse and/or exposure to violence are more likely to develop aggressive behaviour in the future, reproducing the experiences of family violence during child abuse. Furthermore, there is also a high co-morbidity between AT, hyperactivity disorder and attention deficit, anxiety, depression, mood and substance use65,66. Regarding the SS variable, the mediating effect between ETE and the DB (including CPS) does not exist, revealing that SS does not seem to exert an influence on the recovery of ETE in children and youths, similar to what happens with ACEs. It is important to clarify that, if traumatic events involve close relations, the perception of this SS is distorted, with feelings of threat, danger and insecurity, both relating the subject and also relating the relationships with others, which is understandable in cases where the subjects were abused by relatives or close friends. It may be the family and close friends who do not carry out the necessary SS to the victim, avoiding to talk about the event, leading them to be interpreted as not caring, which may result in distorted cognitive trust schemes63.


The study has some limitations. The results cannot be inferred to the Portuguese general population, since the small sample is limited to a geographical area of Portugal, Porto. In addition, the present study involved university students, not involving a clinical sample, which should be considered in future studies. Because no longitudinal assessment was carried out, a linear cause-and-effect relationship between the independent and the dependent variables should not be established. Future studies should extend the sample to other Portuguese geographical areas, opting by a longitudinal design, analysing if victims develop AT and how it may or may not evolve to DB.


Although ACEs and traumatic events appear as important predictors of delinquency throughout life, there are children and adolescents with ACEs who develop behavioural pathways of greater adaptation and resilience. Understanding the variables that mediate ACEs and their impact on the behaviour of adolescents is essential for the design of intervention policies and strategies aiming to combat DB. This study proves to be particularly useful as it allows identifying the mediating variables, AT and SS, of the relationship between ACEs, ETE and DB (including CPS), assisting the practice of professionals who operate in the field of adolescents’ healthy behaviour, namely in terms of mitigating the consequences associated with ACEs. Efforts to prevent delinquency should, therefore, include the group of young people who early demonstrate antisocial and DB, given their greater risk for the development of future forms of social maladaptation.

Disclosure statement

The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.


The authors wish to thank the Faculty of Psychology, Education and Sport of Lusófona University of Porto (ULP), Portugal.

Institution where the study was conducted

Lusófona University of Porto (ULP), Rua Augusto Rosa 24, 4000-098 Porto, Portugal


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