Prevalence of childhood maltreatment and posttraumatic stress symptoms among male inmates in Iceland

Hrafnhildur Gunnthorsdottir*, Gísli Kort Kristófersson, Elín Dianna Gunnarsdóttir

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction Childhood maltreatment is highly correlated with adult criminal behavior, and the prevalence of childhood maltreatment within prison populations is high. Furthermore, studies have repeatedly shown a higher prevalence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms in samples of prisoners compared with the general public. Purpose and Methodology The aims of the current study were to determine the frequency of childhood maltreatment among male inmates in Iceland and the percentage of male inmates meeting screening criteria for PTSD. The Icelandic versions of the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire-Short Form and the PTSD Symptom Scale-Self-Report (PSS-SR) were used in the study. Results Results show a high prevalence of childhood maltreatment among the sample (N = 48), where 87% of participants reported having experienced at least one of the five categories listed (M = 2.33, SD = 1.68). Approximately 52% had experienced emotional abuse, 27% had experienced physical abuse, 48% had experienced sexual abuse, and over half reported experiencing neglect in their childhood. Two thirds of the participants were above the cutoff score for PTSD on the PTSD Symptom Scale-Self-Report, all of whom expressed a reduced quality of life and/or functional impairment because of their symptoms. Discussion The results indicate that most male inmates in Icelandic prisons were maltreated during their childhood and that many of them report severe posttraumatic stress symptoms. Conclusion By integrating trauma-focused interventions into Iceland's Prison Service, mental health nurses and other mental health professionals have an opportunity to profoundly affect prisoners' functioning and quality of life, thereby potentially reducing the likelihood of recidivism for a large part of this population in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)98-106
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Forensic Nursing
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Other keywords

  • Child abuse
  • child maltreatment
  • Iceland
  • posttraumatic stress disorder
  • prisoners
  • trauma-informed care


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