Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Effect of Stigma on Criminal Offenders’ Functioning: A Longitudinal Mediational Model

Research has rarely considered criminal offenders’ psychological responses to stigma, but these responses may significantly influence behavior after release from jail/prison. Jail inmates’ perceived and anticipated stigma was assessed prior to release from jail/prison (N = 163), and outcomes were assessed one year post-release (N = 371). We hypothesized that perceived stigma would predict poor adjustment in several domains (i.e. recidivism, substance dependence, mental health symptoms, community adjustment) through anticipated stigma. 

Results showed that perceived stigma predicted worse community adjustment through anticipated stigma, and this varied by race. Results are explored from an interdisciplinary perspective.

Being labeled as a stigmatized person has substantial effects on the way people think and feel about themselves, as well as how they expect to be treated by others in their environment (;). Psychological research shows that such responses to stigma can interfere with functioning, and lead to maladaptive behaviors, poor mental health, and difficulty participating in the community (Inzlicht, Tullett, and Gutsell 2011). Empirical studies consistently show these relationships innon-correctional groups (), but little research has been conducted with offenders. Criminal offenders are a highly stigmatized group, marginalized via temporary and sometimes permanent restrictions on voting rights, housing, financial aid, employment, and other aspects of community involvement (). The structural barriers affecting criminal offenders’ integration in the community have been described in depth elsewhere (see ; ). Offenders’ psychological responses to stigma may be important in understanding their reintegration in the community after release from jail or prison.

This paper draws upon several theoretical and empirical literatures, namely psychology (clinical and social psychology), sociology, and criminology to examine a model of how responses to stigma affect offenders’ behavior. This paper expands upon the few studies conducted on this topic (Winnick and Bodkin 2009;) by using conceptually clear stigma constructs, constructing a model of how stigma affects behavior, and by using longitudinal data. Understanding criminal offenders’ psychological responses to stigma has the potential to inform correctional services, as responses to stigma are malleable and could be addressed in clinical interventions.

Below:  This figure illustrates the final mediational model of perceived stigma through anticipated stigma to the four latent outcomes. Latent correlations are not shown for ease of viewing; all were significant

Below:  This figure shows the unconstrained model where all structural pathways were free to vary among Caucasian and African American inmates.

Full article at:

By:  Kelly E. Moore, M.A., Jeffrey B. Stuewig, Ph.D., and June P. Tangney, Ph.D.
Kelly E. Moore, Department of Psychology, George Mason University;
*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Kelly E. Moore, Department of Psychology MSN 3F5, George Mason University; Fairfax, VA 22030

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