Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)



Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Jill Stinson

Committee Members

Julia Dodd, Matt Palmatier, Stacey Williams


A definitive association between adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and negative physical and mental health outcomes has been established. There is evidence that individuals in forensic psychiatric facilities are disproportionately exposed to ACEs, which may impact severity, prognosis, and age of onset of psychiatric symptoms, including behavioral concerns of institutional aggression, self-harm behaviors, and suicide attempts. Such psychiatric and behavioral concerns are often managed through multiple psychotropic prescriptions, leading to psychotropic polypharmacy. This study evaluated the relationship between ACEs, mental health and behavioral concerns, and psychotropic polypharmacy through analysis of archival data from a forensic inpatient psychiatric facility. A total of 182 patients met inclusion criteria. Through a comprehensive record review, ACE scores, mental health outcomes, behavioral concerns, and prescription practices were ascertained and subjected to a series of regression analyses. Results indicate that the current participants experience greater prevalence of ACEs and mental health outcomes, as well as higher rates of psychotropic polypharmacy. These relationships are mediated by history of self-harm behaviors. The higher polypharmacy rates yield greater negative side effects with the need to manage with additional medications. Taken as a whole, ACEs are a relevant consideration, as childhood adversity may lead to a lifetime of difficulty with managing emotional distress and symptoms of psychopathology. Pharmacological treatment may be necessary, particularly with those who experience more complex mental health outcomes. However, a primary focus on psychotropic intervention can result in high rates of medications and polypharmacy with significant side effects. Incorporation of non-pharmacological intervention should be a primary consideration with forensic inpatients to circumvent the potential for psychotropic polypharmacy and related negative consequences.

Document Type

Dissertation - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.