• Sociodemographic and psychometric data on female and male prison inmates were collected.
• Childhood trauma, dissociation and adverse family experiences were prevalent and positively correlated.
• A psychiatric background, sexual abuse and violent crimes were prominent in females.
• A criminal background, substance use and sexual crimes were prominent among males.
• A potential link between childhood trauma and subsequent offending was suggested.
To evaluate childhood trauma in relation to criminal behavior, dissociative experiences, adverse family experiences during childhood and psychiatric backgrounds among prison inmates.
In total, 200 prison inmates were included in this questionnaire-based study. Data on demographic characteristics, adverse family experiences during childhood and psychiatric backgrounds were collected via face-to-face interviews, and a psychometric evaluation was conducted using the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ-28) and Dissociative Experiences Scale (DES).
Several historical items were more common in females than in males including family history of psychiatric disease (23.0% vs. 13.0%, p = 0.048), a personal history of psychiatric disease (51.0% vs. 29.0%, p < 0.001), and previous suicide attempts (49.0% vs. 25.0%, p < 0.001). In male inmates, in contrast, there were higher rates of substance abuse (48.0% vs. 29.0%, p < 0.001) and previous convictions (50.0% vs. 25.0%, p < 0.001). Males had a younger age at first crime (24.9 ± 8.9 years vs. 30.3 ± 9.2 years, p < 0.001), whereas females had higher rates of violent crimes (69.2% vs. 30.8% p < 0.001) and higher CTQ total scores (51.9 ± 20.9 vs. 46.2 ± 18.9, p = 0.04). A significant relationship of CTQ total score was noted with age at first offense (β = 0.772, p < 0.001) but not with sentence length (β = 0.075, p = 0.292). There were also possible mediating roles of psychiatric problems, adverse family experiences and DES in the relationship between CTQ and age at first offense.
In conclusion, our findings revealed a high prevalence of and significant associations among childhood trauma, dissociative experiences, adverse family experiences and psychiatric problems in a cohort of incarcerated females and males. A psychiatric background, childhood trauma characterized by sexual abuse and violent crimes were found to be predominant in female prison inmates, whereas a criminal background with a younger age at first offense and frequent previous convictions, substance use and sexual crimes were more prevalent among male prison inmates. Our findings indicate a potential link between childhood traumatization and criminal behavior in terms of subsequent offending but not in terms of severity of the subsequent offense.
Merih Altintas, Mustafa Bilici
Comprehensive Psychiatry, Volume 82, April 2018