Childhood Trauma Predicts Risk of Violence in Psychosis


A study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research finds the strongest association between a history of childhood trauma and the risk of violence in adults with psychotic disorders is for people with a history of sexual abuse.  A cumulative effect of trauma in general on risk for violence in psychosis was also found. “There are implications for applying models of violence to psychosis, risk assessment and treatment of people with psychotic disorders as well as informing trauma models and protective factors for children in conflict-affected regions,” the study concludes.

Bosqui, T., Shannon, C., Tiernan, B., Beattie, N., et al; Childhood trauma and the risk of violence in adulthood in a population with a psychotic illness. Journal of Psychiatric Research. Online March 19, 2014.

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Kermit Cole
Kermit Cole, MFT, founding editor of Mad in America, works in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a couples and family therapist. Inspired by Open Dialogue, he works as part of a team and consults with couples and families that have members identified as patients. His work in residential treatment — largely with severely traumatized and/or "psychotic" clients — led to an appreciation of the power and beauty of systemic philosophy and practice, as the alternative to the prevailing focus on individual pathology. A former film-maker, he has undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology from Harvard University, as well as an MFT degree from the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. He is a doctoral candidate with the Taos Institute and the Free University of Brussels. You can reach him at [email protected].


  1. What are the possible consequences if scientists search only in the (very) dark? Omitting to include who switched the light of or what else has been going on in the real world where they selected their convenience sample – with questionable proportions from forensic and other mental healt services pulled together. Are we told what the ‘violence’ committed by the study participants was? Still, this is not what troubles me most. It is the omission of the historical, political, economical reality, the culture of occupation, civil wars, religious wars, independence wars … brutality and aggression for more than a century. The convenience sample was chosen … in Ireland, that is all we are told. What are we told about the wars at many levels which may have caracterized the cultural normality, over generations, from which the participants may have been selected? The omitted context is not only described for generations in daily papers, history textbooks, pamphlets. I remember the tribunals Hannah Arendt wrote about in after-Nazi Germany. Where she found that the executioners in te camps were not evil, but normal citizens living in times of war and racism, terror and fear. May be looking in the very dark only omits the essential factors which may lead a small proportion of people diagnosed with schizophrenia and who have a higher rate of diverse and multiple abuse experiences to be (how) more violent, or criminal, we are not told how, as many more others from this historical population plagued by generations of oppression and wars of all sorts. In my view, however, the applied reductionism of seemingly causal relations – by themselves?! – can lead to very dangerous conclusions and generalizations which may be fundamentally wrong. Therefore such kind of reductionist science can be dangerous with regards to public stigma and policy implications. Lack of historical and cultural and oppression, injustice, guerilla and war as well as economic depression related information can be so very dangerous. It can mislead readers to believe in associations which exclude decisive factors and present wrong concepts, easily inflated into ideologies, stigma and risk prevention politics for the wrong reasons and affecting a groupof chosen scapegoats. Very worried reflections I suggest as a clinical and cultural anthropologist and user/survivor researcher.

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    • I agree. The psychiatric industry has been covering up child abuse for the “elite” (and religions) for a long time. This is an article with evidence regarding such in Irland:

      And I’m thinking the psychiatric industry is now claiming sexual abuse, covered up as a child, is a precursor to psychiatric symptoms as an adult, so they may continue to cover up their current misdiagnoses and crimes for the evil and powerful within society in the future.

      I hope my new found, research based cynacism, is wrong. I fear for my child’s life, discussing the crimes committed against my family. But I hope the decent within society, will stand up against such lifelong defamation of children.

      And I thank God I knew psychiatry was a hoax, because I was attacked first, by the time they wanted to attack my child for finally healing from sexual abuse covered up by psychiatrists for a religion, to the extent he got 100% on his state standardized tests.

      As long as a child isn’t stigmatized by psychiatry, and drugged, he can at least largely heal from child abuse and become a valedictorian. But I do understand why the current psychiatric industry wants to cover up the fact they’ve been covering up child abuse for the unethical wealthy, for profit, for decades, by now claiming child abuse is a death sentence for psychosis. They weren’t able to maintain control over everyone they abused as children.

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  2. Great. Now on the basis of this fabulous (literally, since it was done by fabulists) study, people who report having been raped as children will be conked on the head with a psychosis diagnosis and oh, so readily incarcerated and forcibly drugged.

    How about a study between the link of un-acknowledged childhood abuse in people who go into psychiatry, where they can act out the abuse (in the role of the powerful abuser) again and again on helpless people?????

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  3. I agree completely with Ute M Kramer’s remark. Again the focus is on “schizophrenics” becoming violent or “psychotics” becoming violent, and the whole matrix in society which breeds, excuses and even nurtures violence in the military industrial complex or as a means to attain a supposed end is ignored. And then there’s another factor. Psychiatric drugs are the “medications” most associated with causing violence. To what an extent are those who have suffered sexual abuse more likely to be prescribed such medications? And to what extent do those medications strongly correlate with causing violence, as well as lessening recovery rates, lessening life, lessening self initiative, lessening general health; and then increasing the profits of the drug companies (of whom we’re not told how much they funded and/or steered this research and it’s findings).

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  4. ‘Violence’ and the Non Compliant.
    Most Psychiatric data is cooked. I have never  come across a violent mentally ill person: I’ve witnessed distressed  people and elated people, but not violent.

    Nearly  all the violence I’ve witnessed from Mentally  Well people has been under the influence of the environment.

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  5. Here’s the problem with studies of this nature: sexual abuse survivors are already stigmatized and deemed to be a threat to others based on nothing more than acts committed against them. Speaking from my own experience, I was once running a program to help traumatized children, which I was receiving many awards for, as well as consistent praise from referring agencies on how my volunteers and I were able to get through to children that the establishment had largely given up on. As soon as it became well-known that I had been sexually abused, I was told that I could no longer work with these children, based solely on misconceptions regarding my own history. I am in no way denying that those who were sexually abused are, statistically, more likely to become violent, and it is an unfortunate reality that I have seen as the cycle of abuse perpetuates itself within my family. However, my interpretation of these events is that it is a conscious choice on the part of the individuals acting out violently to not deal with what happened to them in any substantial way, and simply deny it ever happened and take it out on those around them. This is a choice that I do not make, and I am not alone in this decision, as some of the least violent people I know came from the most violent environments. Promoting these kinds of studies promotes misconceptions among abuse survivors, and can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I have had children I was working with who acted out violently state that they did it because it happened to them, as if this serves as a complete explanation, because they had always been looked at as if they were dangerous simply because they had been victimized. My point? We have to be careful with presenting this type of information so that it can be used to help abuse survivors- not further stigmatize them. I fully understand that people who are “mentally ill” and, especially, people who are psychotic, are being unfairly stigmatized and blamed for violent acts when they occur, but let’s not scapegoat one oppressed group in order to protect another.

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