Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Troubles Upon Troubles: Do Adverse Childhood Experiences Impact Rehabilitation?

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posted on 2023-03-24, 23:41 authored by Te Hiwi, Erika

In Aotearoa/New Zealand rates of child maltreatment are high. Amongst prison populations rates of child maltreatment as well as psychological disorders, including PTSD, are disproportionately high. However, little attention has been given to the impact of maltreatment in childhood on treatment of those in prison. The current research sought to provide a representative picture of the extent of maltreatment amongst high risk violent offenders who have attended Special Treatment Unit programmes in Aotearoa/New Zealand prisons. Further, we evaluated the association between both childhood maltreatment levels and PTSD symptoms on one side and their treatment progress and completion on the other. Lastly, we analysed whether maltreatment levels or PTSD symptoms altered the risk for violence from pre- to post- programme for those who managed to complete treatment.

Consistent with previous literature, the prevalence of maltreatment amongst the sample (N=423) was much higher than has been shown to exist in the general population, with 82% reported to have experienced at least one type of abuse or neglect. As predicted, the number of types of maltreatment was significantly associated with likelihood of participants’ exit from treatment as well as lower treatment progress, however PTSD symptoms were not. Neither childhood maltreatment nor PTSD symptoms were found to significantly affect the change in VRS score from pre- to post- treatment. Despite the striking finding of past maltreatment experiences over current PTSD symptoms relating to treatment outcome, the pathways from childhood maltreatment to difficulty progressing in and completing rehabilitation programmes remains unclear. Nonetheless these findings add weight to Adam’s (2002) claim that the pervasive experience of childhood maltreatment amongst forensic populations is key issue for forensic psychologists. Further integration of practices informed by trauma care, as has been established for female prisoners, warrants further investigation.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Forensic Psychology

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Science

ANZSRC Socio-Economic Outcome code

280121 Expanding knowledge in psychology

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

2 Strategic basic research

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Psychology


Eisenbarth, Hedwig