The impact of childhood abuse on adult male prisoners: A systematic review

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology




School of Arts and Humanities




Goddard, T., & Pooley, J. A. (2019). The impact of childhood abuse on adult male prisoners: A systematic review. Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology, 34(2), 215-230. Available here


Childhood abuse has been associated with a broad range of adverse cognitive, emotional, behavioural and social outcomes. Research specific to adult male prisoners indicates an association between childhood abuse experiences and crime recidivism, mental health issues, substance abuse and interpersonal difficulties. The purpose of this review was to conduct a systematic investigation of databases, using predetermined search strategies and key terms, in order to collate and describe the current literature examining the impact childhood abuse has on the functioning of adult males incarcerated for criminal offences. The investigation yielded 217 studies, which, through further analysis, was reduced to a total of 17 peer-reviewed articles. A narrative synthesis summary of findings was subsequently carried out. The findings identified four main themes, revealing the means by which childhood abuse impacts the functioning of adult male prisoners: mental health difficulties, crime and recidivism, substance use and behaviour/personality issues. In addition, less robust themes of revictimisation and adult life functional difficulties were revealed. Lastly, the noteworthy limitations of the collated research and the clinical implications for the findings were discussed.



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