The relationship between seclusion and restraint use and childhood abuse among psychiatric inpatients

J Interpers Violence. 2011 Feb;26(3):567-79. doi: 10.1177/0886260510363419. Epub 2010 Mar 17.


Seclusion and restraint (S/R) is a controversial topic in the field of psychiatry, due in part to the high rates of childhood physical and sexual abuse found among psychiatric inpatients. The trauma-informed care perspective suggests that the use of S/R with previously abused inpatients may result in retraumatization due to mental associations between childhood trauma and the experience during S/R. Thus, though one would expect to see efforts on the part of inpatient psychiatric facilities to limit S/R of previously abused inpatients, research suggests that trauma victims may be more likely to experience S/R. The current study sought to clarify this possibility by examining whether presence or absence and chronicity of childhood sexual and physical abuse differed among three groups of adult inpatients (N = 622) residing at a mid-Western state psychiatric hospital. These groups are empirically derived on the basis of dramatic differences in the patterning of their exposure to S/R over the course of hospitalization. Results of Chi-square and Kruskal-Wallis tests suggest that the classes did not significantly differ in presence or absence and chronicity of childhood sexual or physical abuse when male and female inpatients were analyzed separately. However, among the class of inpatients who experienced the most instances of S/R, 70% of the members have histories of childhood abuse. Implications for inpatients, clinicians, and policy makers are discussed.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / psychology*
  • Child Abuse / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Hospitals, Psychiatric
  • Humans
  • Inpatients
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / complications
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Mental Disorders / therapy*
  • Middle Aged
  • Midwestern United States
  • Restraint, Physical / methods
  • Restraint, Physical / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sex Distribution
  • Young Adult