The Effects of Childhood Exposure to Violence on Neurocognitive Performance in Adult Offenders With Pediatric Brain Injury: A Comparative Study Using Hierarchical Linear Modeling

Date of Award


Document Type

Doctoral Research Paper

Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Graduate School of Professional Psychology

First Advisor

Kimberly Gorgens

Second Advisor

Marybeth Lehto

Third Advisor

Bruce Bender

Fourth Advisor

Laura Meyer


Traumatic brain injury, Childhood violence exposure, Assessment, Development, Forensic population


Research has illustrated the long–term risks associated with pediatric traumatic brain injury (TBI) and exposure to violence in childhood, including cognitive dysfunction in the areas of executive function and memory. Many individuals in the criminal justice system present with histories of pediatric TBI and childhood violence exposure. The present study investigated differences in neurocognitive performance between justice–involved individuals with a reported history of pediatric TBI who were exposed to violence during childhood and justice–involved individuals with a reported history of pediatric TBI who were not exposed to violence during childhood. This study’s aim was to further explore the hazards of early childhood events on cognitive functioning in adulthood. The study used retrospective Automated Neuropsychological Assessment Metrics data. The sample included persons who were on probation or incarcerated (n = 280) with a history of reported TBI sustained before age 15. Hierarchical linear modeling was used to examine the relationship between childhood violence exposure and cognitive performance on measures of executive function and memory. Results indicated statistically significant associations between exposure to violence in childhood and poor memory functioning among persons who had a history of pediatric brain injury. That is, individuals who were exposed to violence during childhood and who also sustained a TBI during that time performed worse on measures of memory function than individuals who sustained a TBI during childhood but were not exposed to violence. These findings emphasize the importance of primary prevention efforts by highlighting the additive impact of childhood violence exposure and pediatric TBI on adult cognition in a vulnerable population. Secondary prevention efforts aimed at designing more supportive intervention and support programming after exposure to violence or pediatric brain injury may help minimize the risk for the worst of outcomes.

Publication Statement

Copyright held by the author. Permanently suppressed.


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