Psychology ETDs

Publication Date

Summer 7-14-2021


Despite exceptionally high rates of trauma and substance use among incarcerated offenders, treatments remain limited in scope and availability within the criminal justice system. Identifying shared underlying mechanisms and potential gender differences could facilitate the development of interventions to target the vicious cycle of trauma, substance use, and crime. This study aimed to test a novel conceptualization of trauma, substance use, and criminal history as a composite risk factor for recidivism, including posttraumatic world assumptions as a hypothesized mediator and gender as a potential moderator. Participants were adult offenders from a community corrections program. Due to many institutional barriers and recruitment delays, the resulting sample size (n = 14, 71.4% men, 50.0% Hispanic/Latino, M age = 36.9 years old) precluded inferential analyses. Regardless, descriptive findings revealed highly elevated histories of substance use, trauma, and posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms in the sample. Participants endorsed fairly negative world assumptions, which corresponded with higher levels of trauma. Over one-third of participants recidivated by the 3-month follow-up, primarily due to substance-related violations. Supplementary analyses of a local jail population (n = 135) found that a history of interpersonal trauma unexpectedly predicted lower rates of 12-month re-arrest, but this finding was not statistically significant when controlling for gender. In both samples, women reported higher trauma and lower criminality at baseline than men. Findings and future directions are discussed within the context of study limitations, lessons learned about barriers to research in criminal justice settings, and broader perspectives gained from the events of the year 2020.

Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name


First Committee Member (Chair)

Barbara S. McCrady, Ph.D.

Second Committee Member

Katie Witkiewitz, Ph.D.

Third Committee Member

Elizabeth A. Yeater, Ph.D.

Fourth Committee Member

Lisa Broidy, Ph.D.




inmates, alcohol, drugs, PTSD, cognitions, sex differences

Document Type


Included in

Psychology Commons