Physical and sexual abuse, salivary cortisol, and neurologic correlates of violent criminal behavior in female prison inmates
William Penn University, Filadelfia, Pennsylvania, United States Biological Psychiatry
(Impact Factor: 10.26).
02/2004; 55(1):21-31. DOI: 10.1016/S0006-3223(03)00705-4
Both physical and emotional traumas have been related to neurologic and neuroendocrine abnormalities that may be associated with violent behavior.
A modified case-control design was used for blinded comparison of 113 female inmates convicted of violent and nonviolent crimes. History of having been physically or sexually abused, neurologic history and physical examination, basal salivary cortisol levels, and associated variables were investigated to identify possible risk factors for violent compared to nonviolent criminal convictions.
Of all inmates studied, 95% had neurologic histories predating the current crime and/or neurologic examination abnormalities. Logistic regression revealed morning cortisol levels, number of years since last abuse, number of prior suicide attempts, and traumatic brain injuries with loss of consciousness to be significantly associated with current violent convictions, with a mean of two brain injuries with loss of consciousness per subject in the violent group.
A greater number of traumatic brain injuries with loss of consciousness and suicide attempts, more recent abuse, and low morning basal salivary cortisol levels could be associated with dangerous violent criminal behavior, including murder, in female prison inmates. Future research should investigate neuroendocrine challenges, more psychiatric and violence measures, and different populations with longitudinal designs.
Available from: Antonia S New
- "A substantial number of adults with personality disorders report experiences of early trauma (e.g., Bierer et al., 2003; Golier et al., 2003; Zanarini et al., 1997) and recent studies have demonstrated a link between early adversity and low cortisol levels measured in adulthood (Brewer-Smyth, Burgess & Shults, 2004; Weissbecker, Floyd, Dedert, Salmon & Sephton, 2006). The assessment of biological correlates of early adversity is often complicated by the fact that such experiences are not monolithic because both 'dosage' (i.e., trauma severity) and type of exposure may have distinct influences on psychopathology and/or have different biological correlates depending on the context in which they are experienced (e.g., Cichetti & Rogosh, 2001; Spertus, Yehuda, Wong, Halligan, & Seremetis, 2003). "
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ABSTRACT: This study examined the influence of various forms of childhood abuse on basal cortisol levels in a sample of adults with Axis II personality disorders. Participants included 63 adults (n = 19 women) who provided basal plasma cortisol samples and completed the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire. Linear regression analyses that included all 5 subscales (ie, sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, physical neglect and emotional neglect) demonstrated that physical abuse was related to lower cortisol levels (beta = -.43, P = .007), consistent with prior literature. In contrast, physical neglect was associated with higher cortisol (beta = .36, P = .02), after controlling for other forms of abuse. Results are consistent with the view that childhood trauma has long-lasting neurobiological effects and suggest that different forms of trauma may have distinct biological effects.
Available from: auburn.edu
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