Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Peggilee Wupperman

Committee Members

Andrew Shiva

Elizabeth Jeglic

Subject Categories

Clinical Psychology


incarcerated individuals, affective instability, trauma symptoms, physical abuse, sexual abuse, impulsivity


Incarcerated individuals with a history of physical and/or sexual abuse have been found to exhibit increased levels of impulsivity compared to those with no abuse history (Carli et al., 2014; Davis et al., 2017; Sergentanis et al., 2014). Given that impulsivity is a risk factor for criminal delinquency (Carroll et al., 2006; Kamaluddin et al., 2015; Zimmerman, 2010), it is important to gain a thorough understanding of psychological factors that may contribute to higher levels of impulsivity in incarcerated populations. The present study examined the mechanisms underlying the relationship of physical and/or sexual abuse history to impulsivity in a sample of incarcerated males (N = 138). Mediational hypotheses were investigated using Model 4 on PROCESS macro in SPSS 28 (Hayes & Preacher, 2013). Results indicated that history of physical abuse, sexual abuse, and a composite of physical/sexual abuse were each positively correlated with affective instability, trauma symptoms, total impulsivity, and motor impulsivity. Affective instability and trauma symptoms were shown to fully mediate the relationship between each type of abuse and total impulsivity. Results also indicated that affective instability, but not trauma symptoms, had at least a partial mediating effect on the relationship between abuse and motor impulsivity in the full model. Although preliminary, these findings have implications for determining the psychological factors that can be targeted in interventions aimed at reducing behavioral problems in incarcerated males with abuse histories.