Posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms, emotion dysregulation, and aggressive behavior among incarcerated methamphetamine users

Laura C. Wahlstrom, Jillian Panuzio Scott, Antover P. Tuliao, David Dilillo, Dennis E. McChargue

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objective: Methamphetamine use remains a prevalent problem in the United States and is linked to numerous deleterious outcomes, including aggressive behavior, criminal activity, and incarceration. Given these associations, a greater understanding of factors that contribute to aggression among users of methamphetamine is needed, particularly within criminal justice settings, where users of this drug are overrepresented. Methods: The present study examined the relationships between posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms and emotion dysregulation and in-prison physical aggression among incarcerated males who identified as methamphetamine users (N = 60). Results: Participants average age was 34.4 years (SD = 7.9), and they were predominantly European American (n = 48, 80%), had spent an average of 6.53 years incarcerated (SD = 4.64), and perpetrated about 1.54 acts of aggression (SD = 6.74) during the past three months. Bivariate correlations found that greater PTSD symptoms (p <.001), greater impulse control difficulties (p <.001), and limited access to emotion regulation strategies (p <.05) were associated with aggression perpetrated in prison. However, results from multiple regression analyses indicated that only PTSD symptoms (p <.001) and nonacceptance of emotional responses (p <.03) were predictive of aggression. Regression analyses also suggested that impulse control difficulties (p <.001), limited access to emotion regulation strategies (p <.04), and nonacceptance of emotional responses (p <.001) interacted with PTSD symptoms to predict increased aggressive behavior. The first interaction ran counter to study hypotheses: At greater levels of PTSD symptoms, those with greater acceptance of emotional responses reported greater aggression perpetration than those with lesser acceptance of emotional responses. The other two interactions were in line with hypotheses, showing that at greater levels of PTSD symptoms, those with greater impulse control difficulties (or lesser access to emotion regulation strategies) reported more aggressive behaviors. Conclusions: Consistent with theories of aggression, study findings suggest that PTSD symptoms bolster the risk of aggression via various forms emotion dysregulation. Results shed light on potential mechanisms that promote in-prison aggression and violent recidivism among this population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)118-127
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Dual Diagnosis
Volume11
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 3 2015

Keywords

  • Aggression
  • Emotion regulation
  • Incarceration
  • Methamphetamine
  • PTSD

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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