Background: Child maltreatment has been found to significantly increase the risk of deviant behavior. Academic performance has been shown to have an indirect effect on the relationship between child maltreatment and deviant behavior. However, not all adolescents who have been maltreated engage in deviant behavior, so the relationship between child maltreatment and deviant behavior has remained unclear. Objective: The aim of this research was to examine the potential mediating and/or moderating effects of academic performance on the relationship between child maltreatment and deviant behavior. Participants and setting: The data in this study were from a nationwide study examining the consequences of childhood maltreatment in Taiwan. The database consisted of data from 2321 adolescents. Methods: A secondary data analysis was conducted. Self-report data were obtained on childhood maltreatment experiences, academic performance, and deviant behaviors. Path analyses and a generalized linear model were used to examine the effects of academic performance on the relationship between child maltreatment and deviant behavior. Results: Most participants were male (61.4%), with a mean age of 15.9 years. The mean scores of self-rated academic performance and deviant behavior were 2.86 and 8.2, respectively. A total of 83% participants reported having experienced childhood maltreatment. In this study, academic performance was found to have a moderating rather than a mediating effect on the relationship between child maltreatment and deviant behavior. Among adolescents who had been maltreated during childhood, those who self-rated poorer academic performance were more likely to have a higher deviant behavior score than those who self-rated better academic performance. Conclusions: Good academic performance can be a buffer that reduces the risk of deviant behavior among individuals with a history of childhood maltreatment. Healthcare professionals and educators can tailor early prevention and intervention educational programs targeted toward adolescents with experience of childhood abuse or poor academic performance to prevent the incidence of deviant behavior and thus break the cycle of violence.
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