Accidental and intentional perpetration of serious injury or death: Correlates and relationship to trauma exposure

Angela Nickerson, Idan M. Aderka, Richard A. Bryant, Brett T. Litz, Stefan G. Hofmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The pernicious individual and societal effects of exposure to violence highlight the importance of understanding factors related to trauma perpetration. Little research has investigated the phenomenon of accidental perpetration of serious injury and death, or considered the relationship between perpetration and trauma exposure. Methods: This study uses data from the National Comorbidity Survey-Replication to examine the demographic correlates and characteristics of both intentional and accidental perpetration of trauma, as well as the relationship of these types of perpetration to exposure to traumatic events. Participants were 83 individuals who had accidentally perpetrated trauma and 120 individuals who had intentionally perpetrated trauma. Result: Findings indicated that men were more likely than women to report having intentionally, compared to accidentally, perpetrated trauma. Intentional and accidental perpetration of trauma were both associated with high levels of psychologic disorders, although those who had intentionally perpetrated trauma were more likely to report symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder compared with those who had accidentally perpetrated trauma. Intentional perpetrators were more likely to have experienced interpersonal trauma in adulthood and childhood compared to accidental perpetrators. Interpersonal and sexual trauma was likely to precede any kind of trauma perpetration. CONCLUSIONS: Findings suggest that accidental, as well as intentional, perpetration of serious injury or death frequently occurs in the context of trauma and violence. Both types of perpetration are related to psychopathology. Potential mechanisms underlying the relationship between trauma exposure, psychopathology, and perpetration are discussed. Further research is needed to elucidate pathways from trauma exposure to perpetration and mental disorder.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1821-1828
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Injury
  • Perpetration
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Psychopathology
  • Trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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