Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

15612 Traumatic Stressors, Coping Resources, and Well-Being Among Older Adults In Prison: Forging a Gerontological Social Work Response

Sunday, January 15, 2012: 9:15 AM
Burnham (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
T. Marie Maschi, PhD, Assistant Professor, Fordham University, New York, NY
Kristen Zgoba, PhD, Research Scientist, New Jersey Department of Corrections, Trenton, NJ
Wesley Jennings, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL
Background. America's overcrowded prison system is rapidly graying, and prisoners aged 50 and older have serious physical and mental health problems and possible unaddressed trauma histories, such as being a victim and/or witness to physical or sexual assault (Maschi et al,. 2011). Older adults prisoners represent approximately 10% of the general prison population and are twice as large of 2001 and five time larger than 1990 (James & Glaze, 2006). The aging prison population presents a significant public health challenge and the correctional is ill-prepared to address older prisoners' complex psychosocial legal needs (Falter, 1999). Studies using populations of juvenile and adults show that upwards of 96% of prisoners report trauma. (e.g., Abram et al., 2007). There is a dearth of knowledge of lifetime traumatic stress among older adult prisoners, their use of coping resources, and overall physical and mental well-being. The purpose of this study was to examine the mediating effects of coping resources on the relationship between lifetime traumatic stressors and well-being (physical and mental). To date, these relationships have not been examined among older adult offenders, particularly prisoners. Methods. The study used a cross-sectional correlational design with a sample of 569 male older adult prisoners aged 50 and older housed in the New Jersey Department of Corrections in September 2010. Using the Dillman et al. (2004) four step mail methods strategy a 50% response rate was achieved. Participants completed a battery of established instruments, which included measure lifetime traumatic stressors (Life Events Stressors Checklist-Revised-LSC-R), coping resources (Coping Resources Inventory-CRIS) and mental (Brief Symptom Inventory-BSI, Post Traumatic Stress Checklist-PTS-C) and physical well-being (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Health-Related Quality-of-Life- CDC HRQOL-14). Findings. Controlling for race and age, structural equation models (SEM) were estimated to examine the relationship between lifetime traumatic stressors, individual (cognitive, emotional, spiritual, and physical) and social coping (social support) and well-being (physical and mental health). The SEM results (X2=, df=43,=89.04,CFI= .943; RMSEA=.043) suggested that experiencing lifetime trauma was significantly and inversely related to participants' use of individual level cognitive (B=.46,p<.05), emotional (B=-55,p<.05), spiritual (B=.56,p<.05), physical (B=.35,p<.05) coping and social level coping (B=-.09,p<.05) resources. Lifetime traumatic stressors also exerted a significant direct effect on negative well-being in the form of poor physical (B=-39,p<.05), global mental health (B=.67,p<.05), and post traumatic stress symptoms (B=.90,p<.05). Furthermore, support was shown for the mediating role of individual coping resources and social support on the relationship between lifetime trauma stressors and negative well-being as significant (p<.05) indirect effects were also observed. Implications. Social work interest in practice within the criminal justice system is re-emerging and cross-fertilization with the aging field is critical to address the aging prisoner population crisis at a practice and policy level. These results provide empirical information that can guide improved social work practice, particularly in the form of trauma-informed assessment and intervention strategies that seek to increase individual and social coping resources and well-being of older prisoners. Policy implications included sentencing reform efforts, improved service provision and alternatives are advanced.