Adverse childhood experience, psychological distress and offending: the role of emotional intelligence and related concepts
AuthorsHart, Jacqui Ann
SubjectsC810 Applied Psychology
adverse childhood experiences
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AbstractDespite evidence to suggest that pathways from adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) to psychological distress and offending are gender-specific, theory-driven research examining intervening factors in such pathways is rare. Utilising a mixed-method design, the research presented in this thesis aimed to provide further insight into gender-specific trajectories from ACEs to negative outcomes and to identify a suitable framework within which to conduct such research. It was anticipated that comparing and contrasting quantitative (Studies 1 and 2) and qualitative (Study 3) findings would help to inform interventions to reduce female offending. The literature review identified an attachment framework as appropriate and highlighted variables that warranted investigation. Cross-sectional, self-report data were obtained from a community sample (Study 1; N=153, 121 females) and women with a history of ACEs (Study 2; N=43). Analysis involved correlations, mediation analyses (using bootstrapping) and ANOVAs. Study 1 findings provided some support for unique gendered pathways to offending. In Study 2: secure attachment was significantly associated with fewer psychological distress symptoms and higher levels of emotional intelligence (EI) and emotional coping; a history of high (4+) vs. low (≤3) ACEs explained 10% of the variance in dysfunctional attitudes and posttraumatic stress; ex-offenders reported greater utilisation of a (potentially maladaptive) emotional processing approach to coping than non-offenders. Semi-structured interviews (Study 3) involving women with a history of ACEs and offending (N=5) were analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis. The findings suggested a need for interventions to target emotion dysregulation in order to ameliorate the potential negative outcomes of chronic childhood adversity. The importance of context was also highlighted. Additionally, EI and an emotional coping approach were identified as factors that were beneficial in terms of the women’s psychological well-being. Overall, support was found for the use of an attachment framework in research that examines the negative sequelae of ACEs. Moreover, emotion coping and management skills were highlighted as useful targets for intervention in women ex-offender populations with a history of ACEs and associated psychological distress. Based on the findings reported in this thesis, recommendations were made with regard to future research in the field of ACEs, psychological distress and offending.
CitationHart, J.A. (2014) 'Adverse childhood experience, psychological distress and offending: the role of emotional intelligence and related concepts'. PhD thesis. University of Bedfordshire.
PublisherUniversity of Bedfordshire
TypeThesis or dissertation
DescriptionA thesis submitted to the University of Bedfordshire in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy
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