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Child Abuse Negl. 2014 Oct;38(10):1569-80. doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2014.07.006. Epub 2014 Jul 26.

Posttraumatic stress mediates the relationship between childhood victimization and current mental health burden in newly incarcerated adults.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington, CT, USA.
Center for Public Health & Health Policy, University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington, CT, USA.


The purpose of this study was to evaluate the interrelationship among childhood abuse and traumatic loss, posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS), and Axis I psychiatric disorders other than PTSD among newly incarcerated adults, and to test a proposed model in which the severity of PTSS mediates the relationship between childhood abuse/loss and adult psychiatric disorders. Four hundred sixty-five male and female inmates participated in a structured clinical research interview. Four types of interpersonal potentially traumatic experiences (physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and traumatic loss) were assessed for occurrence prior to the age of 18 years old. Current psychiatric disorders and PTSS were also assessed by structured interview. Negative binomial regression was used to evaluate the association between the cumulative number of types of childhood abuse/loss experienced and number of current Axis I disorders, and to test the mediation model. Approximately half of the sample (51%) experienced 1 or more types of childhood abuse/loss, and 30% of the sample had at least one psychiatric disorder other than PTSD. For both men and women, childhood physical abuse and childhood sexual abuse were independently associated with psychiatric morbidity, and an increasing number of types of childhood trauma experienced was associated with an increase in the number of current Axis I diagnoses. However, these associations were no longer statistically significant when severity of PTSS was added to the model, providing support for the proposed mediation model. Implications for secondary prevention services for at-risk inmates are discussed.


Childhood trauma; Incarcerated adults; Mental health; Posttraumatic stress

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