Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2019

Degree Type


Degree Name



Counselor Education

First Advisor

JoAnne . Holbert


The purpose of the study is to examine the stories of childhood trauma of prisoners, the relationship between childhood traumas among prisoners, and the types of crimes committed by those prisoners as adults. Semi-structured interview data and field notes were collected from 24 post-conviction adult felony offenders between the ages of 18 and 65 who experienced at least one type of childhood trauma. The data were analyzed using Rosenthal and Fischer-Rosenthal’s (2004) analysis of narrative data.

The analysis revealed that the severity of childhood trauma may be linked with aggressive behavior, which may result in criminal activity such as crimes against a person or crimes against property. Individuals who experienced more than one type of trauma and several risk factors were more likely to commit crimes against persons and crimes against property more than any other type of crime. Most of the participants described their need for money in relation to the current offenses. Despite the age when trauma was experienced, most of the participants reported emotional issues that resulted from the traumatic experience. The results revealed that the current lifestyle of the participants may have influenced their current offenses more compared to their childhood trauma histories. The participants’ criminal lifestyle and addiction to illegal substances were two themes generally related to the current offenses experienced similarly by several participants. While there was no finding of a relationship between trauma and crime type in this study, what was found was that the majority of participants often suffered from prolonged exposures to traumas and multiple risk factors during childhood.

A specific type of childhood trauma may not be directly linked to a specific type of crime based on the results of this study. However, elucidating factors may be taken into consideration to determine similarities and differences experienced by individuals who had childhood trauma histories and were convicted for a crime. Similarities and differences in factors such as clinical diagnosis of mental disorders, impulsivity level, drug and alcohol use and abuse, and current situation of an individual’s life were just some of the elucidating factors that may influence the relationship between the type of crime and type of trauma. Future researchers are recommended to examine the mediating effects of such factors to extend the body of knowledge concerning the type of childhood trauma and type of crime committed as an adult.

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