Psychology and Criminal Justice
Although there are many possible explanations for criminal behavior, how much of a role do childhood traumatic experiences play? The aim of this study was to determine the relationship between trauma during childhood and criminal behavior later in life. We located ten empirical studies that measured this relationship, and all of these studies used samples of people who were either currently incarcerated or recently released from prison. We computed the standardized mean difference (the effect size, or d) from data presented in each study for four different types of criminal behavior. Our results showed a strong relationship between childhood trauma and psychoticism (d = 0.53) and conduct problems (d = 0.56). Weaker relationships were found between trauma and general criminal behavior (d = 0.36) and substance abuse (d = 0.14). Based on these results, we conclude that childhood trauma is a significant predictor of criminal behavior later in life.
Novel Aspect: This research is novel because it combines ten previous studies to evaluate the relationship between childhood trauma and criminal behavior in adulthood. Psychologists should be aware of the relationship between trauma and criminal behavior.