Emotional Trauma in Adolescents: Clinical Therapy and Criminogenic Tendencies

Topic: Social Psychology
Words: 6666 Pages: 33


In recent decades, the study of mental disorders has become increasingly socially and scientifically important for a number of reasons. One of the most noticeable indicators of this is an increase in critical awareness among the population and an increased concern for the psychosocial well-being of individuals. This is evidenced by the proliferation of psychological services, the increased availability of cognitive support, and the emergence of a large number of commercial online schools and courses related to mental support for clients (Kubala, 2022). The present research paper does not seek to explore the significance of the expansion of such a phenomenon but instead explores the deeper patterns of connection between individual manifestations of mental disorders and their treatments.

It is paramount to limit the theoretical scope of the current study by outlining its topic. Emotional trauma is a severe type of psychological disorder that arises, as a rule, from the experience of severe stress that affects the cognitive core of the individual. Thus, it is not uncommon for emotional (psychological) trauma to occur at the moment of a physical factor that threatens life and safety — it can be a traffic accident, a terrorist attack, or a rape. However, emotional trauma is not born only in such conditions; experiencing emotional problems also causes emotional trauma. These include the after-effects of rape, experiences of physical violence in the family, and stress related to work or learning. Thus, individuals often experience traumatic events, and they tend to experience more than one emotional shock in their lifetime: troubled relationships, deaths of loved ones, career and self-development difficulties, and any other form of crisis, the experience of which is painful. Statistics report that more than 223 million residents in the United States have experienced at least one traumatic event in their lives (IAD, 2019). Thus, there is no reason to doubt the prevalence of traumatic events in the population, which leads to the conclusion that emotional trauma is a viral phenomenon. In turn, this leads to the conclusion that many individuals live in a state of chronic stress and cannot improve the quality of their lives.

Meanwhile, an intriguing link is a potential impact of having emotional trauma on clinical service utilization outcomes. Emotional trauma leads to the development of a state of stress that affects many aspects of life. It is legitimate to assume that such effects are much broader, extending to include the health care system. Among the purported effects tested in this research paper is the potentially disruptive effect of emotional stress on the effectiveness of treatment for mental disorders. Assuming that the presence of emotional trauma in a patient’s life does matter, we can conclude that it negatively affects the perception and outcome of clinical treatment programs for psychological disorders. This is likely due to the fact that individuals initially have high levels of stress and longing, which reduces the optimistic predictability of treatment.

However, it is not only the health agenda but also the criminal agenda that matters in relation to the discussion of the effects of emotional trauma. Consideration must be given to the fact that the experience of emotional trauma for young people has a destructive effect on them and society in both the short and long term. Juvenile individuals who have experienced emotional abuse and pressure from peers and adults have potential problems with successful socialization and communication later in life. Not only are such individuals prone to withdrawal, but they also tend to acquire anti-moral character traits, becoming a threat to public safety. Consequently, it is an intriguing idea to explore the relationship between adolescents’ experiences of emotional abuse and trauma and their criminal tendencies.

Trauma Treatment Techniques

The current research work aims to investigate in depth the potential relationship between the presence of emotional trauma in adolescent patients and clinical treatment-related outcomes. In addition, an additional interest of the current work is to examine the impact of a history of emotional trauma on predictors of criminogenic behaviors. This work will provide potentially helpful results for the public policy, as it is expected to have implications for the development of preventive measures to deter criminal activity among adolescents. It should also be said that the current study makes an essential contribution to broadening the theoretical knowledge base in forensic science and behavioral psychology. The discovery of new patterns is helpful in order to determine the potential relationship between emotional trauma and individuals’ criminogenic intentions. The paper is divided into several sections, each of which sequentially explores the significance of the problem in the literature and describes the findings and conclusions.

Literature Review

Relevance to the Community of Scholars

Human mental health is not a stable system closed to external stimuli. Consciousness, which is formed as a response to the experience of various events, is extremely sensitive to any outside factors. One manifestation of these reactions is the experience of emotional trauma; however, the academic community lacks a clear idea of what exactly emotional trauma should be considered, so authors tend to offer their own interpretations. In particular, Clift and Maratos (2020) believe that “emotional trauma is considered to be an act of commission that is not in nature physical or sexual but includes verbal abuse or excessive demands or expectations, which cause mental disturbances” ( p. 22). Another study states that “emotional trauma is when there is an emotional response to a disturbing event and the wounds are invisible to detect” (Rygh, 2021, p. 14). In these two interpretations, it is noticeable that the symptom of emotional trauma is the absence of observable signs, since it is realized on a non-physical level. Thus, in this research paper, emotional trauma is operationalized purely as damage done to a person’s mental health as a result of exposure to unfavorable and stressful environmental factors. Notably, the problem of emotional trauma is not uncommon in the scholarly community, as confirmed by the results of a study of the Web of Science digital library. The number of publications and citations on this issue had grown exponentially since 1990, a time when emotional trauma became of interest to the research community in general. Based on the findings, it can be concluded that the issue of emotional trauma has gained widespread popularity in recent years in both academic and public contexts.

It would be a mistake to think that the issue of emotional trauma has been extensively researched only in the fields of psychiatry. Indeed, using Figure 1, it can be concluded that research articles dealing with emotional trauma are published in sectors such as family therapy, social research, neurobiology, and clinical neuroscience. In addition, research is also conducted from the perspective of psychological addiction studies, criminal penology, and behavioral disciplines. To put it another way, for the scientific message, the topic of emotional trauma is not limited to a few categories but rather is constantly expanding, and new knowledge is being created from the integration of several fields. As a general consequence, the study of emotional trauma is highly prevalent in the scientific literature, and many works have already been devoted to the topic.

Top 10 Fields of Knowledge in Which Research on Emotional Trauma Has Been Published 
Figure 1: Top 10 Fields of Knowledge in Which Research on Emotional Trauma Has Been Published 

Exploring the Causes of Emotional Trauma

When the academic relevance of emotional trauma is no longer in doubt, it would be interesting to investigate the possible causal mechanisms that lead to the formation of trauma as such. Primarily, it should be said that the causes of emotional trauma are not limited to purely physical causes, as non-physical verbal abuse can also lead to trauma (Figure 2). Individuals can experience domestic violence, parental abuse, beatings, and humiliation during childhood. School bullying and even cyberbullying are also proven causes of developing psychological problems, which is especially true for adolescents, who are extremely sensitive to any criticism and insults in their direction (Hinduja & Patchin, 2019). Meanwhile, it should be pointed out that predictors of emotional trauma can be classified as one-time, multiple-time, or missed. In terms of disposable causes, experiences of natural disasters, terrorist attacks, rape, and physical trauma (which are implied, usually by chance only once) create stressors in the cognitive perception of reality that form trauma. Repeated predictors tend to act systematically on the individual; for example, living in an unfavorable neighborhood, high levels of occupational stress, and difficulties in personal relationships with loved ones and family have a permanent destructive effect on the individual, resulting in an overall decreased quality of life. Finally, emotional trauma can also occur when opportunities have been missed, and the individual profoundly regrets it. For example, severe emotional distress can be caused by an age and self-actualization crisis, a humiliating experience, and feelings about a “better life” that the individual was never able to achieve.

Examples of Emotional Turmoil Are Most Commonly Experienced by American Teens 
Figure 2: Examples of Emotional Turmoil Are Most Commonly Experienced by American Teens 

Some of the Effects of Emotional Trauma

In fact, it would be prudent to immediately acknowledge that the possible effects of emotional trauma are extensive and will never be fully explored, as the possibilities of the human mind are limitless. Nevertheless, some of the common patterns are detectable when analyzing the literature. The most obvious of the effects of emotional distress is the development of post-traumatic stress disorder; it is reported that about five percent of American adolescents show signs of this syndrome (NIH, 2021). Notably, the prevalence among female adolescents (8.0%) is about four times higher than among boys. However, it is also appropriate to discuss the additional effects to which the experience of emotional trauma leads. These include the unconditional effects associated with irritability, chronic stress, cognitive dysfunction, and behavioral changes (IAD, 2019). Compelling evidence is shown in research by Cassiers et al., who say that experiencing emotional trauma affects structural changes in the brain by modifying the reward system and activity in the amygdala (Cassiers et al., 2018). Meanwhile, emotional distress has been positively correlated with suicidal ideation in adolescents and the development of depressive moods (Shapero et al., 2019). Panic attacks are not uncommon consequences of emotional trauma, affecting approximately 1 in 50 adolescents (NIH, 2021). Panic attacks are typically characterized by abrupt feelings of fear and anxiety that are reached by the individual in a matter of minutes (Roy, 2020). In these states, the individual experiences physical dysfunction and often cannot breathe adequately or even move because they are in a stupor phase. As a result, it is appropriate to generalize that emotional trauma has severe cognitive consequences for individuals and can lead to physical and mental dysfunction.

A Study of the Relationship of Childhood Trauma and Criminalization

One significant threat, both in terms of academic cognitive and behavioral psychology and in terms of societal norms, is the potential impact of having childhood trauma on the development of criminogenic tendencies in an individual. In this sense, the connection may seem transparent, as the fact that a person has developed childhood emotional traumas may lead to a state of chronic stress, and thus all socially recognized norms may be perceived as negative stimuli: as a consequence, such an individual has problems with socialization. One of the manifestations of emotional trauma is the consistent experience of the same traumatic experience, which, in turn, can be transmitted to others. An example of this effect would be the rape trauma syndrome, which results in the individual changing their social and physical behavior (Bach & Demuth, 2018). It is especially worth emphasizing that not all victims of emotional abuse become criminals, nor do all criminals have experienced emotional abuse as children-universal generalizations are inappropriate in this case, nor is it appropriate to attempt to ignore this connection. In fact, such reasoning becomes the foundation for research into the biological nature of criminality and phenomena like the killer gene.

In this section, there is no point in dwelling in detail on the biological nature of criminal motives, but it is worth turning to research on the relationship between emotional trauma and the development of antisocial ideas. For example, the authors report that the presence of neglect in childhood is a strong predictor of aggressive behavior in adulthood (McGuigan et al., 2018). Neglect should be understood as a lack of due diligence and care on the part of parents and caregivers toward the child. In fact, it refers to the abandonment of parental roles to nurture and comfort the individual, which can become a predictor of the development of the child’s emotional attachment trauma to the adult. Altintas and Bilici found that among incarcerated women and men, the prevalence of emotional trauma experienced at a young age was extremely high; therefore, the correlation between the variables was described as high (Altintas & Bilici, 2018). This is supported by a Canadian study that found that half of the incarcerated citizens were confirmed to have experienced acts of childhood violence as children (Bodkin et al., 2019). Criminogenic needs were also linked to abuse equally among men and women, so gender had no statistically proven relationship on recidivism (Vitopoulos et al., 2019). A good summary is a government report from the FBI, which reported that “individuals who endured conventional ACEs [note: adverse childhood experiences] have suffered ‘early mortality related to mental health and cardiovascular, pulmonary, and liver disease'” (Freeze, 2019, para. 7). Thus, there is no doubt among academic sources that the presence of childhood trauma and emotional distress can — but should not — lead to the development of criminogenic behavior.

Indeed, a link between these variables — the presence of emotional trauma and criminality — has been shown, but it is far more interesting to examine the nature of this pattern in more detail. One of the most central ideas is the phenomenon of perceived stress in which a victim of emotional abuse lives. It is thought that as a result of the experience of such abuse, an individual may feel low self-esteem and painful memories, panic attacks, and a constant sense of anxiety even after a long time (IBCCES, 2019). During adolescence, such experiences are particularly sensitive because they affect the adolescent’s identity formation and self-actualization as an independent person. In other words, an adolescent may feel resentment toward parents and/or peers, as well as society at large. If this resentment does not find psychological support and is not professionally processed, it can become a cause of criminogenic actions. In this context, it is especially important to recall examples of school bullying, when teenagers kill their peers and teachers in schools and colleges. Among the understandable reasons are two teenagers, Harris and Klebold’s bitterness toward their classmates and school in general, feelings of repressed depression and anger (Schildkraut & Muschert, 2019). It is well known that the number of Columbine-like school pranks is on the rise, not only because of the explicit romanticization of nonconformism on the Web but also because teenagers under stress see the real solution to the problem as violence. Thus, one of the first reasons for this connection should be identified as the depth of emotional experience with which adolescents experience emotional trauma.

Meanwhile, it is necessary to specify that at the age of adolescence, the individual enters a phase of socialization, which results in the successful integration of the person into society. At this age, adolescents autonomously explore the world and create authority figures for themselves, and the placement of such preconceptions that do not conform to the average social norm leads to problems of interpersonal communication. Among the barriers to successful socialization are the inability to separate from parents, cognitive dysfunction and developmental disabilities, and drug addiction. Thus, a traumatized adolescent who has not been sufficiently integrated into society has a greater chance of following a criminal path. Meanwhile, it should be also taken into account the fact that in adolescence, the individual lacks a meaningful, critical understanding, which means that a sense of personal responsibility for what he or she has done is diminished (Cohen-Almagor, 2018). Thus, the analysis of the literature shows that the second cause of the criminogenic activity of adolescents is the ineffective processes of socialization of the personality, which arose as a consequence of psychological trauma.

An extremely interesting twist in the academic literature is the study of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the emotional well-being of adolescents. Previously, it has been shown that the causes of psychological trauma can be both disposable and multiple, as well as overlooked. COVID-19, which has been one of the most critical issues worldwide for the past two years, is difficult to fit into this classification. COVID-19 is a new coronavirus infection that was born in the Chinese city of Wuhan and spread worldwide in a matter of weeks (Walsh, 2020). As a result of the pressures of social constraints and uncertainty, vast numbers of people around the world experience chronic stress on a daily basis. The level of such stress is, in fact, critically high, with three out of four respondents stating that they experience severe daily stress as a result of COVID-19 (APA, 2021). Adolescents are not the exception in this case, as their daily lives, which include learning and entertainment, have also been significantly modified. The literature shows that the pandemic has meaningfully affected adolescents’ mental health, and this leads to decreased quality of life, socialization, and self-actualization problems (Guessoum et al., 2020). This leads to the third conclusion that any global problems lead to disruption of adolescent personality development and increase the possibility of criminogenic activities. It must be recognized that actions of a global nature are not limited to COVID-19 but actually include geopolitical conflicts, wars, and natural disasters.

Definition of Adolescent Criminality

For this literature review, it is already clear that recognition of the connection between experiences of emotional violence and the potential for criminal activity exists among the scholarly community. However, identifying precisely what is meant by adolescent criminal activity is of interest because it directly impacts the development of potentially promising prevention programs. This issue is being explored by the scholarly community even more than emotional trauma issues as shown by the results of a study in Web of Science. Tjukup et al. point out that juvenile delinquency is intended to undermine social norms and disrupt safety but is also a reflection of the pursuit of deviance (Tjukup et al., 2020). As a consequence, an adolescent commits acts that are detrimental to his or her future but may not be entirely critical of the full extent of the consequences.

A look at the statistics reveals an intriguing picture of juvenile delinquency in the United States. According to The State of America’s Children (SAC), as many as 1,909 teens are arrested every day in the country who have been caught committing acts against the law, with a child being arrested literally every 40-50 seconds (SAC). Vandalism, shoplifting and alcohol violations and drug possession have traditionally been among the most common examples of juvenile crime (Orent Law, 2018). Additionally, it is not uncommon for children in adolescence to broadcast bullying to more vulnerable peers. In American slang, there is a specific word that characterizes the victims of such bullying: outcast. Outcasts tend not to engage in interpersonal communication with classmates and focus entirely on themselves, which can lead to hatred from others. It would be correct to include bullying of outcasts — and anyone in general — in the type of juvenile delinquency because of this behavior also undermines social norms and threatens the personal safety of human dignity.

The discussion of juvenile delinquency is actually much more deeply connected to issues of emotional abuse and ambiguously reflects a causal relationship. In particular, arrested adolescents are sent to prison if they have committed serious crimes – but at this age, imprisonment is a disastrous obstacle to personal socialization. It is believed that “incarceration does not support the growth and development of our children; it places them at risk and limits their access to resources” (SAC, 2021). Consequently, incarcerated adolescents are the most likely to experience severe emotional and possibly even sexual trauma, which further removes them from the path of healthy socialization upon release.

Treatment of Emotional Trauma

One of the essential facets of this research paper is to examine the techniques and effectiveness of treating emotional trauma in adolescents when the definition, causes, and consequences of such trauma have already been identified. Treatment of mental dysfunctions, it must be said, turns out to be more difficult than immediate surgery or dentistry since, in this therapy, the outcome is not tangible and is entirely subjective. Nevertheless, clinical psychiatry is sufficiently advanced by now to offer options for pain relief, implemented either cognitively or medically. This section does not address psychological support options from family and friends, as the emphasis is on professional support options. In addition, it should also be said that an identical connection is made between emotional trauma and post-traumatic syndrome disorder since both of these conditions can be treated using the same techniques.

The literature review clearly demonstrates that one of the most popular treatment practices is Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or TF-CBT for short. TF-CBT is a psychological evidence-based practice that focuses on thoroughly working through the adolescent trauma-the traumatic impact of this procedure is discussed consistently during treatment, not ignored (Santarnecchi et al., 2019). In this technique, negative emotions are worked through in a way that does not cause the patient to experience such feelings in the future, after therapy; that is, the more the problem is discussed during sessions, the better the treatment outcome. There is another proper psychiatric technique called Eye Movement Desensitization and Processing (EMDR), during which there is no need to systematically repeat traumatic events and change cognitive reactions to them (Santarnecchi et al., 2019). In EMDR treatment, the therapist uses a sound tapping system that triggers trained reflexes in the patient on positive affirmations. In other words, TF-CBT therapy focuses on changing reactions and emotions, whereas EMDR helps build a new vector of cognitive development. It is noteworthy that the scientific literature is differential about the effectiveness of each therapy. For example, Khan et al. (2018) demonstrated the most significant clinical efficacy of TF-CBT, whereas Lewey et al. (2018), in contrast, showed slightly better efficacy specifically for TF-CBT. It can be concluded, then, that both of these therapies are effective with respect to the treatment of traumatic episodes, but their use must be individualized and adapted.

Special attention should also be paid to art therapy as a unique method of treating traumatic events. In post-traumatic syndrome, art is widely used as a tool to improve the mental well-being of individuals, with sessions with a therapist conducted both individually and in a group format (Schnitzer et al., 2021). The core of such therapy is the ability to use art as a creative expression of one’s problems in a safe context. Interestingly, modern art therapy is not limited to artistic activities but can also include listening to (creating) music, staging theatrical scenes, or choreography. The patient engages in any of these activities, focusing on them, but the part of the brain that has been traumatized by the experience is replaced by the realization of creative skills. Schouten et al. (2019) showed that art therapy demonstrated promising results for reducing the symptoms of trauma syndrome, whereas classical treatments could not work for all patients. Thus, as a stand-alone option or, even better, an adjunct to classical treatment techniques, art therapy is an excellent tool for reducing the stressful effects of emotional trauma for adolescents.

Literary Review Conclusions

Summing up the general summary of the literature review conducted, it is necessary to emphasize several conclusions found from literary sources. First, the problem of emotional trauma is significant and relevant to the community of scholars, as a large number of scientific papers are produced each year. Interest in the present problem is also developing among the public, which is reflected in the increase in the number of Google searches over the last sixteen years. Secondly, there are a large number of causes and factors that lead to the development of emotional trauma in adolescents. The consciousness of individuals is an open system to external stimuli, and as a result, a catastrophic number of causes can have a destructive effect on emotional well-being. Third, the formation of emotional trauma in individuals can cause the development of depressive traits and even suicidal tendencies; in addition, psychological trauma often causes aggressive intentions toward society, so emotionally traumatized individuals can become socially dangerous. However, one should not equate these variables because not every offender is emotionally traumatized; the opposite is also true. Then, juvenile criminality has several forms of manifestation, and not all of them are unequivocally associated with the infliction of material harm. School bullying is also a crime that systemically disrupts the emotional balance of the victim. Finally, modern psychiatry offers a large number of options for effective treatment, among which TF-CBT, EMDR, and art therapy should be highlighted.


Research Design

The methodology of this study is based on the use of secondary quantitative data. The study is descriptive in nature, as only some of the weightiest portion of the common database variables are used in the current work to explore the possibility of a statistically significant relationship between them. The descriptive component of the research design responds to the need for descriptive data analysis to identify some of the most intriguing patterns. The current study did not use a group of respondents because the statistical analysis involved the use of data that were already available. Nevertheless, the source of these data indicated the use of informed consent and the voluntary nature of participation, and thus the current study had no violations of academic ethics. The total number of participants was 179 respondents.

Data Collection

Statistical analysis was performed for data obtained from a previously published study. More specifically, the large online database available from Wilson et al. (2018) was used in this paper, with only some of the variables selected for analysis because not all of them were of interest within the scope of the paper. In turn, the database presented in the source was a synthesis of twenty-nine publications that passed the inclusion criteria and were selected for use by Wilson et al. Thus, it should be emphasized that meta-analysis data were used.

Collection of Sources

In addition to conducting the statistical analysis, this paper also conducted a literature review, the results of which demonstrated the significance of the topic in the academic field. For the literature review, it was customary to use topical sources published both in peer-reviewed academic journals and on government websites, as this allows for a reflection of the multifaceted nature of knowledge and describes a real agenda that is close to the practice of everyday life. Any of the sources used, however, were carefully vetted before citation for at least three inclusion criteria. First, the source had to be written entirely in English, so all foreign materials were excluded from the analysis. Second, the full-length text document had to be freely available since any possibility of academic piracy was discouraged by the author. Third, the authority of the author or publication by which the material was published must be verified. Indeed, checking authority is a problematic subjective task, so it was decided to use the firm rule that the author of a scholarly work or government document must have other personal works with a similar scholarly research vector. Thus, these three inclusion criteria narrowed the number of sources used and increased confidence in their reliability.

Research Question And Hypotheses

In this study it was decided to focus on three aspects, the connections between which were to be studied in detail. Specifically, the experience of emotional trauma, the potential for an individual’s criminogenic development, and attendance at specific types of psychological therapy were investigated. Figure 3 below shows a conceptual model of this relationship, from which it can be seen that two-way effects are implied for each of the interactions. Therefore, a generalized research question might be formulated as follows: Does emotional trauma affect psychological therapy outcomes and individuals’ potential criminal careers?

Conceptual Diagram Showing the Relationship of the Variables in the Current Study
Figure 3: Conceptual Diagram Showing the Relationship of the Variables in the Current Study

Since several influences are outlined in the current question, it would be legitimate to discuss hypotheses. First, it is hypothesized that the presence of emotional trauma in patients positively influences individuals’ criminal careers. Second, it should be noted that there is an inverse relationship between psychological therapy attendance and individuals’ criminogenic tendencies. Finally, it is expected that having emotional problems in patients influenced their attendance at psychological therapists.


The database contained a large number of variables, namely more than 500 different factors. For the overall database, which was obtained through university access to the ICPSR, it was decided to select only a few variables that would be relevant to the current research work. This choice was motivated by the desire to narrow the study to only the critical research questions and to ensure that the information presented was complete. The variables selected with a brief description of the methodology used to measure them and a summary are listed in Table 1 below.

Table 1: Variables Used in This Study Were Isolated From the Overall Dataset

Variable Measurement mode
History of sexual abuse Likert scale (4 levels)
History of neglect Likert scale (4 levels)
History of physical abuse Likert scale (4 levels)
History of emotional abuse Likert scale (4 levels)
History of trauma Likert scale (4 levels)
Art therapy Likert scale (2 levels)
CBT Likert scale (2 levels)
EMDR Likert scale (2 levels)
Type of crime Likert scale (7 levels)
Exposure to violence Likert scale (4 levels)

As can be seen, each of the variables was discrete and measured on a Likert scale. A Likert scale is an excellent tool for sociological research, allowing respondents to express their level of agreement with the statement presented, usually with more than three levels. However, in the “psychological therapies” section, it is clearly evident that the Likert scale can also be a two-level scale; in fact, it is a dichotomous measurement in which the respondent had to choose between two options.

Statistical Analysis

Analysis of the relationship between variables was conducted using descriptive statistics tools, and both individual frequencies of the distribution and the relationships between variables were measured through the use of the chi-square method. The chi-square is a non-parametric statistical method to assess the significance of differences between groups between actual data and theoretically expected data. Chi-squared results help to understand how independent the groups are, so its use in this analysis is necessary.


Turning to Table 2 shows the results of descriptive statistics, and several observations can be made. First, among all psychological traumas, the highest prevalence was seen for sexual abuse. Second, among psychiatric therapies, art therapy was not common among the sample at all, with TF-CBT having the highest number of visits to psychological support (15.1%); however, overall psychiatric visits were not common among this sample. Third, in terms of commitment to violence, approximately half of respondents indicated that they were wholly and highly exposed to violence. Fourth, half of the respondents who responded indicated that they may have committed all types of crimes.

Table 2: Frequency Distribution of Responses for Each of the Variables

n %
History of sexual abuse
No info 50 27.9
Some 57 31.8
Most 32 17.9
All 40 22.3
History of neglect
No info 152 84.7
Some 3 1.7
Most 20 11.2
All 4 2.2
History of physical abuse
No info 58 32.4
Some 48 26.8
Most 70 39.1
All 3 1.7
History of emotional abuse
No info 125 69.8
Some 46 25.7
Most 8 4.5
All 0.0
History of trauma
No info 55 30.7
Some 17 9.5
Most 27 15.1
All 80 44.7
Art therapy
No 179 100
Yes 0.0
No 152 84.9
Yes 27 15.1
No 173 96.6
Yes 6 3.4
Exposure to violence
No info 88 49.2
Some 8 4.5
Most 65 36.3
All 18 10.1
Type of crime
All offenses 96 53.6
Substance abuse 0 0.0
Property crime 3 1.7
Person crimes 3 1.7
Status offenses 0 0.0
Criminal offenses 0 0.0
Other 0 0.0
Missing 77 43.0

Inferential statistics were used to compare variables to determine associations between them. Cross-tabulation was used for pairwise comparisons of variables (Appendix A). It was found that there was a statistically significant association (χ2=3.17, p<.05) between having sexual withdrawal and attending CBT therapy, sexual withdrawal, and attending EMDR therapy (χ2=28.52, p<.05). It was shown that most respondents did not attend therapy, and more adolescents attended CBT therapy than EMDR therapy. Similar results were obtained for the distributions among those adolescents who had experienced physical and emotional abuse: for all, CBT therapy was significantly higher. Although the distribution of responses among sexually abused adolescents according to the type of crime they had committed seems clear (Figure 4), this distribution was not statistically significant (p>.05).

Frequency Distribution Histograms About the Association Between Adolescent Sexual Abuse and the Type of Crime They Committed 
Figure 4: Frequency Distribution Histograms About the Association Between Adolescent Sexual Abuse and the Type of Crime They Committed 

Interesting results were obtained about the statistically significant relationship (p=.023) between neglect and exposure to violence. Exposure to violence was associated with both physical (p=.000) and emotional (p=.000) violence. Based on these data, we can conclude that experiencing physical and emotional trauma predicts the development of criminogenic behavior. Particular attention should be paid to the variable of trauma history without specific specialization. As expected, this variable was statistically significantly associated with CBT attendance (p<.005), with approximately half of respondents indicating that they had been exposed to criminogenic behavior.

It is worth discussing the chi-square test results for each of the pairs of variables separately. For this purpose, a matrix of paired variables was compiled, presented in Table 3. In this type of testing, attention should be paid to the p-value, reflecting the statistical reliability of differences. A value below the critical level (.005) shows the possibility of rejecting the null hypothesis and confirming the groups’ differences. The table below shows that only twelve were statistically significant out of twenty-five pairs, so attention should be paid only to these pairs. For example, the split of opinion in the case of associations between experiences of emotional abuse and exposure to violence was found to be statistically significant, meaning that the portion of adolescents who have experienced sexual abuse is often exposed to violence.

Table 3: P-Value Results for Each Pair of Data in Chi-Square Tests; Statistically Significant Events Are Marked With an Asterisk

Variables Variables
Art therapy CBT EMDR Exposure to violence Type of crime
History of sexual abuse .000* .000* .000* .168
History of neglect .130 .776 .023* .008*
History of physical abuse .001* .022* .000* .250
History of emotional abuse .001* .262 .000* .762
History of trauma .000* .053 .000* .222

Discussion and Conclusions

The present study focused on identifying the relationship between experiences of emotional trauma and attendance at clinical therapy and criminogenic tendencies. Among adolescents, discussion of such patterns is important because large numbers of them have experienced trauma in childhood and may be susceptible to violence if not managed properly. The results of the descriptive statistics show an interesting pattern for discussion. The prevalence of sexual violence shown in the Results is also reflected in real life: studies show that 40% of all American women have experienced sexual violence at least once in their lives, with 80% of them having had this traumatic experience before the age of 25 (Kuadli, 2021). On the other hand, it has been shown that psychological support visits are not very common in the sample. Only 19.2% of U.S. adults received psychological support in 2019, and only 9.5% of the U.S. population had therapeutic treatment from a competent clinician (CDC, 2020). In other words, the prevalence of psychological treatment was not that wide for the sample, and it remains the same for the general population. An interesting observation was made regarding art therapy; for the sample, it was shown that attending art therapy was not seen at all among the sample. There is no evidence in the literature regarding the popularity of art therapies, but it must be said that there is probably some bias regarding the effectiveness of such therapies. It can be assumed that adolescents may not be interested in spending time with art when more effective therapies exist. This assumption is confirmed when the frequency response distribution for CBT and EMDR, which were attended by at least a few respondents in the sample, as opposed to art therapy, is examined.

Based on the resulting cross-tabulation, several interesting conclusions can be drawn for discussion. Adolescents who were emotionally traumatized by neglect in childhood were shown to show a high susceptibility to commit any type of crime. In other words, this result confirms a previously discovered pattern that victims of violence may themselves become sources of violence (Bach & Demuth, 2018). In addition, CBT therapy was found to be more prevalent among the adolescent sample, as opposed to EMDR and even more so art therapy. This may also confirm the part of the research that puts CBT therapy ahead of other types of classical trauma treatment.

Indeed, the findings have promising implications for modifying existing policies. The presence of emotional trauma was a predictor of adherence to violence, with adolescents being more likely to choose CBT among the three therapy options. The implications of such findings could be used by community organizations and government agencies to develop socially relevant programs that would minimize the development of criminogenic intentions among adolescents. For example, recognizing that emotional trauma in childhood does indeed — and is statistically valid — become a predictor of exposure to violence could lead to improved social and preventive support programs for families and children. In addition, it has also become clear that parental neglect is a predictor of the potential for all types of crime, and thus the lack of attentive, caring, and functional parenting in childhood has an impact on increasing public safety risks in the future. For decision-making organizations, this finding is also significant because it demonstrates the critical need to direct efforts and resources toward the development of a happy family.


Several assumptions were made in this study that can be viewed as limitations of test-retest reliability. First, data collected by another author, rather than personal data, were used. Although the procedures for collecting and using the materials have been discussed in detail in the papers, the use of a chain-reference mechanism always involves some risks of validity and generalization. Second, with regard to validity, it should be said that only descriptive statistics were performed, and more in-depth nonparametric tests were not available. In addition, the designs of all of the tests from which the data were collected were not known with certainty, so the validity of the results cannot be assured. Fourth, not all questions were required, so some of the questions, even for these variables, showed high rates of missing responses.

For Future Research

The present study showed extremely promising findings for forensic theory and the relationship to emotional trauma and set the stage for more in-depth studies of the impact on the popularity of therapeutic trauma treatment programs. However, it is ineffective to limit the full potential of the study to the results already obtained, as there is room for expansion. In particular, it is recommended to increase the number of variable therapeutic techniques and to trace deeper patterns in their selection. In addition, it would be useful to trace these relationships for demographic variables, which would include the inclusion of variables of gender, race, and age. Finally, crime theory is increasingly becoming a globally scalable doctrine in today’s world, and therefore it would be useful to expand the geographic scope of the experiment.

Appendix A

Cross-Tabulation for the Relationship Between Sexual Abuse and CBT Attendance
Figure A1: Cross-Tabulation for the Relationship Between Sexual Abuse and CBT Attendance
Cross-Tabulation for the Relationship Between Sexual Abusive Behavior and EMDR Attendance
Figure A2: Cross-Tabulation for the Relationship Between Sexual Abusive Behavior and EMDR Attendance
Cross-Tabulation for the Relationship Between Sexual Abusiveness and Types of Crimes Committed
Figure A3: Cross-Tabulation for the Relationship Between Sexual Abusiveness and Types of Crimes Committed
Cross-Tabulation for the Relationship of Neglect and Exposure to Violence
Figure A4: Cross-Tabulation for the Relationship of Neglect and Exposure to Violence
Cross-Tabulation for the Relationship Between the Physical Abusive Experience and CBT Attendance
Figure A5: Cross-Tabulation for the Relationship Between the Physical Abusive Experience and CBT Attendance
 Cross-Tabulation for the Relationship Between the Physical Abusive Experience and the EMDR Visit
Figure A6: Cross-Tabulation for the Relationship Between the Physical Abusive Experience and the EMDR Visit
 Cross-Tabulation for the Relationship of Physical Abusive Experiences and Exposure to Violence
Figure A7: Cross-Tabulation for the Relationship of Physical Abusive Experiences and Exposure to Violence


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