This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Pathways of Dysregulation: The Influence of Lifetime Poly-Victimization on Therapy-Interfering Psychosocial Impairment in Adolescents Adjudicated for Sex Offenses




Harrelson, Megan, E.

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation




The preset study examined the relationship between poly-victimization exposure, affective dysregulation, and three negative psychosocial outcomes: externalizing problems, posttraumatic stress, and suicidal behavior. Adolescents adjudicated for sex offenses are a poly-victimized population who display psychosocial impairment tied to maladaptive affective regulatory strategies. If left untreated, functional impairment can interfere with the remediation of illegal sexual behaviors. Participants consisted of 165 adolescent males enrolled in mandated residential treatment following a sex offense. Childhood poly-victimization exposure and affective dysregulation severity were expected to predict psychosocial impairment. Affective dysregulation was also expected to partially mediate the relationships between poly-victimization and externalizing problems, posttraumatic stress, and suicidal behavior. Consistent with the main hypothesis, a significant indirect effect was observed between poly-victimization and all three areas of psychosocial impairment via affective dysregulation. Findings highlight the impact of poly-victimization exposure on functional impairment, as well as the importance of assessing for multiple types of victimization in adolescents who engage in illegal sexual behavior. Clinical implications regarding the use of trauma-informed approaches during sex offender treatment are discussed.