Center on Sentencing and Corrections

Cumulative Trauma and Current Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Status in General Population and Inmate Samples

Cumulative Trauma and Current Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Status in General Population and Inmate Samples

John Briere, Elisha Agee, and Anne Dietrich, “Cumulative Trauma and Current Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Status in General Population and Inmate Samples,” Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy 8, no. 4 (2016), 439-46. 

This research compares the role of cumulative trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder in incarcerated people and people in the general population. Participants in this study filled out a questionnaire to measure cumulative traumatic events (which research indicates is more likely to lead to PTSD than having one or few trauma exposures) and post-traumatic stress disorder status. Results of the study showed that the mean number of different trauma types incarcerated participants had been exposed to was 6.3, as opposed to 2.2 types of trauma for participants in the general population. Over half of incarcerated participants reported experiencing being in a motor vehicle accident, physical assault, threatened assault, childhood sexual abuse, being shot or stabbed, and sexual assault. Approximately 48% of incarcerated participants met diagnostic criteria for PTSD, while 4% of those in the general population exhibited diagnostic criteria. 

The report examines the reasons for the stark differences in PTSD and cumulative trauma exposure between incarcerated people and those in the general population, indicating that the generally lower socioeconomic status of incarcerated people is correlated with PTSD. This research asserts that his correlation indicates that post-traumatic stress disorder may be the result of cumulative trauma. 

Click here to read the study. 

Keywords:  trauma, cumulative trauma, PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder, DAPS, DSM-IV.