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The Relationship Between Exposure to Violence During Childhood and/or Adulthood and Gross Cognitive Functioning Among Justice - Involved Individuals with TBI


Recent estimates suggest approximately 2.7 million Americans were victims of violence in 2021 (USDOJ, 2022). Among justice-involved individuals, the prevalence of lifetime exposure to violence is as high as 87% (Wolff et al., 2014; Wolff & Shi, 2009). Like TBI, disruptions in cognitive functioning have been identified among individuals exposed to violence throughout their lifetimes (Daughterty et al., 2021). These disruptions, particularly impulsivity and emotional reactivity, may make individuals vulnerable to becoming involved in the criminal legal system (McIsaac et al., 2016; Ray & Richardson, 2017).

Main Objective

This study compared domains of cognitive functioning among justice-involved individuals with a significant reported brain injury history who were exposed to violence during childhood and/or adulthood. Methods Data from 586 justice-involved adults were analyzed. Information on cognitive functioning and exposure to childhood and/or adulthood violence was gathered from individuals with a significant reported history of TBI who completed the Colorado-Revised OSU TBI-ID (Corrigan & Bogner, 2007), the ANAM core battery, and unstructured clinical interviews.


Significant differences were found in the domains of attention/processing speed, learning, working memory, and delayed memory. Specifically, individuals with a significant reported TBI history who were exposed to violence during childhood and also as an adult performed significantly poorer on cognitive tests than individuals who were exposed to violence only during childhood, only during adulthood, and individuals who were never exposed to violence.

Conclusions/Future Implications

These findings can inform secondary violence prevention efforts for individuals with TBI and exposure to violence, including routine brain injury screening and targeted interventions that address the cognitive deficits associated with exposure to violence. This study also highlights the need for primary prevention of childhood violence, as persons exposed to violence during childhood may be more vulnerable to poor post-injury outcomes if they are also victimized as an adult."