Childhood maltreatment and post-traumatic stress disorder among incarcerated young offenders

Child Abuse Negl. 2013 Oct;37(10):861-70. doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2013.07.012. Epub 2013 Aug 23.


Young offenders have a high prevalence of mental illness and a large proportion report experiencing a number of traumatic events during childhood, but there is little research exploring this association. This study describes the prevalence of, and association between, child maltreatment and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among young offenders. The study uses data collected as part of the 2009 NSW Young People in Custody Health Survey which was conducted in nine juvenile detention centers. This paper reports on findings from the baseline questionnaires and 18-months of re-offending data. The analysis included 291 participants who were assessed for PTSD and child maltreatment. The sample was 88% male, 48% Aboriginal, with an average age of 17 years (range 13-21 years). One in five (20%) participants were diagnosed with PTSD, with females significantly more likely to have PTSD than males (40% vs. 17%, p<0.05). Over half (60%) of young offenders reported any child abuse or neglect, with females nearly 10 times more likely to report three or more kinds of severe child maltreatment than males. The main correlate for a diagnosis of PTSD was having three or more kinds of severe child maltreatment (OR=6.73, 95% CI: 1.06-42.92). This study provides evidence for the need to comprehensively assess child abuse and neglect among young offenders in order to provide appropriate treatment in custody and post-release.

Keywords: Adolescents; Child abuse; Custody; Offender; Posttraumatic stress disorder.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / diagnosis
  • Child Abuse / statistics & numerical data*
  • Child Custody
  • Criminals / psychology*
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health
  • New South Wales / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Sex Factors
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology
  • Substance-Related Disorders
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult