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Distinguished Professor Cathy Spatz Widom is First John Jay Faculty Member to Receive Edwin H. Sutherland Award

Distinguished Professor Cathy Spatz Widom in the Department of Psychology is the recipient of the 2013 American Society of Criminology (ASC) Edwin H. Sutherland Award. Widom is the first to receive this award at John Jay and one of only five women to receive the award since it was established in 1960. She is joining a cadre of distinguished and world renowned criminologists in recognition of her work.

The Sutherland Award is the American Society of Criminology’s highest honor and it “recognizes outstanding contributions to theory or research in criminology on the etiology of criminal and deviant behavior, the criminal justice system, corrections, law, or justice.” As the Sutherland Award Committee stated in its letter of award, “Professor Widom is internationally renowned for her scholarship on child abuse and neglect and its consequences.” As a winner of this award, Professor Widom will be presenting a plenary address at the upcoming ASC meeting in November.

Professor Widom’s prolific career has spanned over four decades producing some of the most pioneering research and insight into the long-term effects of child abuse and neglect. Widom is an internationally renowned expert on the causes and consequences of child abuse and neglect receiving numerous awards, career honors, and grants, and has published over 120 articles in a wide range of top peer-reviewed journals. Widom’s landmark research has focused on the “cycle of violence” theory that states being the victim of violence as a child leads to the perpetration of violence as an adult. Her findings have become standard statistics about the likelihood that abused and neglected children will become delinquents, adult criminals, and violent offenders. Her article on “The Cycle of Violence” was published in Science and has been cited in scholarly articles 1,385 times. Her research has influenced policy and practice in child welfare and juvenile justice and criminal justice fields.

Her award nomination letter states, “Dr. Widom’s study set a new standard by utilizing a prospective research design that followed youth officially identified as maltreated over a long period of time, and comparing them to a normative sample of those not identified as having been maltreated. This rigorous design provided more valid evidence of the effects of maltreatment, as well as the opportunity to study the myriad effects of victimization that may unfold over the life course.”

Professor Widom has received awards for her research across multiple disciplines, including the 1989 American Association for the Advancement of Science Behavioral Science Research Prize for her paper on the “cycle of violence,” the 1996 Mark Keller Award for her paper on the substance abuse consequences of child abuse and neglect, the Distinguished Contribution to Applied Research in Psychology and Law from the American Association for Applied and Preventive Psychology in 1997, the Robert Chin Memorial Award from the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues also in 1997, and in 2010, an award from the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children for a paper on economic consequences of child maltreatment (with Janet Currie).

Those who nominated her for the Sutherland award also cited Professor Widom’s commitment to and mentoring of junior faculty members. As Dr. Jorge Chavez, a former student of Dr. Widom notes, “she has straddled the line between academic and applied research to inform both and this has had a tremendous impact on policy implications.”

Assistant Professor Preeti Chauhan of John Jay noted, "Dr. Widom's work is an example of truly extraordinary science. Her work on the ‘violence breeds violence’ hypothesis has been theoretically grounded, methodologically rigorous, and forward thinking. The results from her longitudinal study demonstrated that while abuse and neglect is a risk factor for violence, it is not deterministic and there are several factors — from genetics to neighborhoods — that influence whether a person becomes violent."