Adverse Childhood Experiences in Juvenile Offenders: Investigating an Instrument of Comprehensive Assessment and Associations with Psychopathology

Adverse Childhood Experiences in Juvenile Offenders: Investigating an Instrument of Comprehensive Assessment and Associations with Psychopathology

Adverse Childhood Experiences in Juvenile Offenders: Investigating an Instrument of Comprehensive Assessment and Associations with Psychopathology

Poster presentation26Felix Euler, University Hospital of Psychiatry, Switzerland

Room P1Fri 14:30 - 15:15

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) predict juvenile offending and are associated with specific patterns of aggressive behavior. Nonetheless, adolescents in forensic psychiatry rarely meet diagnostic criteria for trauma related psychiatric disorders. Adequate assessment of ACEs in youths comprises a number of specific challenges. As a consequence, psychopathology related to ACEs is often insufficiently recognized. In the present study we applied a comprehensive instrument to assess ACEs and investigated associations of ACEs with psychopathology and personality dimensions. We included data from 99 male adolescent offenders. Results show that the severity of ACEs was significantly associated with higher scores on psychopathology and related personality dimensions. Findings indicate that adequate assessment of ACE is highly relevant for a better understanding and treatment of psychopathology in delinquent youths.

Summary:
Background:
Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) predict juvenile offending (Fox et al., 2015). Moreover, ACEs are associated with specific patterns of aggressive behavior (Fitton et al, 2020). Nonetheless, adolescents in forensic psychiatry rarely meet diagnostic criteria for trauma related psychiatric disorders. Adequate assessment of ACEs in youths comprises a number of specific challenges (White et al., 2021). As a consequence, psychopathology related to ACEs is often misinterpreted and insufficiently recognized in adolescent offenders. The Maltreatment Classification System (MCS; Barnett et al., 1993) is an empirically validated coding system that integrates different sources of information to capture ACEs comprehensively. Application of the MCS might overcome the aforementioned discrepancies.

Aims:
The first aim of the present study was to apply the MCS in a forensic youth sample and to compare the results with standard assessment of ACEs. The second aim was to investigate associations of ACEs with internalizing and externalizing psychopathology and personality dimensions in the study sample.

Methods:
We included data from a total of 99 male adolescent offenders. We applied the MCS, the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire, the Youth Self Report, the Inventory of Callous-Unemotional Traits and the Junior Temperament and Character Inventory.

Results:
We did not find significant differences between the two instruments assessing ACEs. Nonetheless, severity of ACEs was significantly associated with higher scores on psychopathology and related personality dimensions.

Conclusion:
Comprehensive and valid assessment of ACEs is highly relevant for a better understanding and treatment of psychopathology in delinquent youths. Further research on instruments used to caputre ACEs in adolescent forensic psychiatry is needed.

References:

Barnett, D., Manly, J. T., & Cicchetti, D. (1993). Defining child maltreatment: The interface between policy and research. In D. Cicchetti & S. L. Toth (Eds.), Child abuse, child development, and social policy (Vol. 8, pp. 7-73). Ablex.

Fitton, L., Yu, R., & Fazel, S. (2020). Childhood maltreatment and violent outcomes: A systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies. Trauma, violence, & abuse, 21(4), 754-768.

Fox et al. (2015). Trauma changes everything: Examining the relationship between adverse childhood experiences and serious, violent and chronic juvenile offenders. Child Abuse & Neglect, 46, 163-173.

White, et al. (2021). Assessment of Maltreatment in Childhood and Adolescence. Praxis für Kinderpsychologie und Kinderpsychiatrie, 70(1), 24-39.
Co-author: Elissa Belinda Martin

Assessment and treatment of young and/or adolescent offenders
adverse childhood experiences, assessment, callous-unemotional traits, temperament and character
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