Criminal Justice Involvement, Trauma, and Negative Affect in Iraq and Afghanistan War Era Veterans

Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology (Impact Factor: 4.85). 10/2012; 80(6). DOI: 10.1037/a0029967
Source: PubMed


Although criminal behavior in veterans has been cited as a growing problem, little is known about why some veterans are at increased risk for arrest. Theories of criminal behavior postulate that people who have been exposed to stressful environments or traumatic events and who report negative affect such as anger and irritability are at increased risk of antisocial conduct.

We hypothesized veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injury (TBI) who report anger/irritability would show higher rates of criminal arrests. To test this, we examined data in a national survey of N = 1,388 Iraq and Afghanistan war era veterans.

We found that 9% of respondents reported arrests since returning home from military service. Most arrests were associated with nonviolent criminal behavior resulting in incarceration for less than 2 weeks. Unadjusted bivariate analyses revealed that veterans with probable PTSD or TBI who reported anger/irritability were more likely to be arrested than were other veterans. In multivariate analyses, arrests were found to be significantly related to younger age, male gender, having witnessed family violence, prior history of arrest, alcohol/drug misuse, and PTSD with high anger/irritability but were not significantly related to combat exposure or TBI.

Findings show that a subset of veterans with PTSD and negative affect may be at increased risk of criminal arrest. Because arrests were more strongly linked to substance abuse and criminal history, clinicians should also consider non-PTSD factors when evaluating and treating veterans with criminal justice involvement.

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    • "Incarceration, violence, suicide attempts, and suicidality among veterans There is growing recognition that criminal behavior and incarceration are significant problems among returning Iraq/Afghanistan Veterans ( Elbogen et al., 2012). While both SUDs and PTSD have been related to incarceration ( Calhoun et al., 2005; Erickson et al., 2008; Elbogen et al., 2012), SUDs appear to be psychiatric conditions that present the greatest risk for incarceration among both non-Iraq/Afghanistan-era (Erickson et al., 2008) and Iraq/Afghanistan-era veterans (Elbogen et al., 2012). Thus, we expected that the externalizing-SUD factor would be the psychopathology factor most strongly associated with incarceration. "
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    ABSTRACT: The present research examined how incarceration, suicide attempts, suicidality, and difficulty controlling violence relate to the underlying factor structure of psychiatric comorbidity among a large sample of Iraq/Afghanistan-era veterans (N = 1897). Diagnostic interviews established psychiatric diagnoses; self-report measures assessed history of incarceration, difficulty controlling violence, suicide attempts, and suicidality. A 3-factor measurement model characterized by latent factors for externalizing-substance-use disorders (SUD), distress, and fear provided excellent fit to the data. Alcohol-use disorder, drug-use disorder, and nicotine dependence were indicators on the externalizing-SUD factor. Posttraumatic stress disorder and depression were indicators on the distress factor. Panic disorder, social phobia, specific phobia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder were indicators on the fear factor. Incarceration was exclusively predicted by the externalizing-SUD factor. Difficulty controlling violence, suicidality, and suicide attempts were exclusively predicted by the distress factor. Contrary to hypotheses, the path from the externalizing/SUD factor to difficulty controlling violence was not significant. Taken together, these findings suggest that the distress factor of psychiatric comorbidity is a significant risk factor for suicidality, suicide attempts, and difficulty controlling violence and could help to explain the frequent co-occurrence of these critical outcomes among returning Iraq/Afghanistan veterans.
    No preview · Article · Jul 2014 · Psychiatry Research
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    • "Among people with PTSD, in particular, living in prison may retraumatize them (Sigafoos, 1994) or influence them to revert to ''combat mode'' because of the vulnerabilities inherent in the prison environment (Cavanaugh, 2010). Veterans may also be at additional risk for PTSD symptoms because of some combination of premilitary factors (Elbogen et al., 2012) and traumatic military experiences (i.e., combat and military sexual trauma) that can be exacerbated by stress, poor treatment, or no treatment while in custody (Sigafoos, 1994). "
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    ABSTRACT: Veterans, particularly those who were involved in combat, experience difficulty readjusting to civilian life after deployment. Difficulties in adjustment postdeployment can contribute to involvement in the criminal justice system for some veterans. Interventions for veterans in the criminal justice system (e.g., veteran courts) are expanding as stakeholders become more aware of the risks that veterans face in corrections. The social work profession is especially suited to play a unique and critical role in veteran interventions through direct practice, advocacy, administration, and research. This article discusses the role of social work practice with veterans in corrections and the implications for the social work profession in veteran-related policy and research. This article includes an overview of the research on veterans in the criminal justice system, a discussion of one rapidly expanding intervention for veterans, and a focused discussion on the multiple roles for social workers in practice, policy, and research.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2014
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    • "In a recent national survey of randomly sampled Afghanistan and Iraq War veterans , 9% reported having been arrested since returning home from deployment. After controlling for demographic and deployment characteristics, veterans' arrests were associated with alcohol and drug misuse and PTSD with high levels of anger and irritability (Elbogen et al., 2012). Similarly, in the U.K. study of Afghanistan and Iraq War veterans, those with high levels of self-reported aggressive behaviors, probable PTSD, or alcohol misuse were more than twice as likely to have a record of committing a violent offense after deployment (MacManus et al., 2013). "
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    ABSTRACT: Although the majority of combat veterans reintegrate into civilian life without long-lasting problems, a sizable minority return from deployment with psychiatric or physical injuries that warrant medical attention. Even in the absence of diagnosable disorders, many experience functional problems that impede full reintegration into civilian life. Considerable resources have been allocated to studying, diagnosing, treating, and compensating combat-related disorders. This important work has resulted in significant improvements in healthcare for those with deployment-related difficulties. Nevertheless, many service members and veterans with reintegration difficulty may not receive needed help. Based on our review, we argue that in addition to treatment and compensation for diagnosable postdeployment problems, a comprehensive approach to reintegration is needed that includes partnership between the government, private sector, and the public.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2014 · Social Issues and Policy Review
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