O.A. Atariata, O.O. Sekoni, A.A. Adetoro, M.B. Etim

Department of Community Medicine, College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, Ibadan


Background: Violent acts perpetrated by young people can cause physical and psychological harm to others and is of serious public health concern. This study was conducted to determine the prevalence of childhood trauma, and to assess the relationship between adverse childhood experiences and other predicting factors, and the perpetration of violence among young adults in Delta state prisons.

Method: A descriptive cross-sectional study design was conducted amongst\ 293 youths who were convicted prison inmates in Delta State Correctional facilities. Three out of the five facilities in Delta State were selected using simple random sampling, after which a total sampling of incarcerated inmates from the three selected facilities was carried out. Data were collected using the; Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ) to measure adverse childhood experiences, and a proforma to classify the offence of the inmate (whether violent or non-violent).

Result: The mean age of the respondents was 28.4 ± 5.4 years. The overall prevalence of childhood trauma was 5.1%. The most common abuse/neglect experienced while growing up was physical neglect with 26.3% followed by emotional neglect (20.5%), physical abuse (7.2%), emotional abuse (2.4%) and sexual abuse (1%).The prevalence of violent offences was 46.1%. Age, (OR=0.3; CI= 0.2-0.6, p=0.001), attaining primary education (OR=3.4; CI= 1.5-7.8, p=0.004) and having witnessed violence while growing up (OR=2.0; CI= 1.2-3.3, p=0.007) were all significant predictors of the perpetration of violence.

Conclusion: The overall prevalence of childhood trauma was low; however, the perpetuation of violence was found to be high in this study. Further research is required to develop study instruments for childhood trauma that are more context specific bearing in mind local sociocultural practices.

Keywords: Childhood trauma, Perpetration of violence, Young people, Witnessing violence


O.A. Atariata
Reproductive and Family Health,
Department of Community Medicine,
College of Medicine,
University of Ibadan,

Date of Acceptance: 30th Dec., 2022


Youth violence has been studied from different aspects so as to determine the major predictors behind its perpetration, and it has been heavily linked to mental health.1 Adverse childhood experiences have been thought to be associated with the tendency of perpetrating of violence because of the likelihood of the event to trigger violent behavior much later in the life of the individual.2

However, the way traumatic events in childhood tend to affect individuals or trigger violent tendencies as the individual develop is not be fully understood. Exposure to childhood trauma could affect development of cognitive, emotional, and social domains; affecting mental health and educational outcome3. Studies have shown that, the exposure to more than one childhood trauma has been linked to a higher tendency of later self-harm or violence.4,5,6

In Nigeria, the occurrence of violence or the proportion of conflict events such as terrorism, land or resource access, cultism/criminality, religious, political, or ethnic related, and personal disputes in household and community levels was studied in NorthEast, North-Central and South-South; of which was seen to be at: 9.6% and 9.6%, 17% and 14%, and 16.5% and 25.3% respectively. And these events include being robbed, abducted, physically attacked, dwelling/ assets destroyed, injured, killed etc.7

Exposure to childhood trauma was correlated positively with psychotic symptoms and higher levels of depression, anxiety and stress; It has been linked with substance abuse, mental conditions and other risky behaviors8 ; and all these are predisposing factors for violence perpetration which could most likely occur in the later stage of life, of an individual6. Victimization, witnessing violence and friends’ behavior contributes directly to violent behavior9 . The perpetration of violence is at its extreme at the adolescent stage, though it may persist into adulthood for few, perhaps as a result of emotional and behavioral dysfunction, cognitive impairments or deficient responding in aversive stimuli.10 Youth violence results in rise of cost of health, welfare, and criminal justice and inevitably results in the diminishing of productivity, and value of property; and for every violence that result in death, almost twice that number are severely injured and require medical attention.11 Also, the prison is an area where persons with known violent behavior are aggregated consequently, conducting the study among inmates would aid the research rather than a cross section of the general public.12

Understanding the relationship between the experience of trauma during childhood and violence perpetration, would provide the necessary information required to identify and strengthen its protective factors while eliminating its risk factors thereby helping to reduce subsequent perpetration of violence that is of serious consequences for its victims and communities.13 While studies on childhood traumatic experiences and its relationship with substance use, psychiatric disorders, and psychosocial wellbeing is well known14,15,16, not much is known about the relationship between childhood trauma and the perpetration of violence in Nigeria. Therefore, there is the need to conduct this study to fill this knowledge gap. Hence the aim of this study is to examine the relationship between childhood experiences and factors associated with the perpetration of violence amongst young adults in Delta State prisons.