The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

Individual and Social Structural Trauma and Well-Being Among Older Adults in Prison: Implications for Human and Prisoner Rights Advocacy

Saturday, January 18, 2014
HBG Convention Center, Bridge Hall Street Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Tina Maschi, PhD, Associate Professor, Fordham University, New York, NY
Deborah Viola, PhD, Associate Professor, New York Medical College, Valhalla, NY
Danee Sergeant, Research Assistant, Fordham University, New York, NY
BACKGROUND: Research suggests that there is a high frequency of accumulating individual and structural level trauma, stress, and oppression among criminal justice populations, including older adults in prison. Evidence also suggests that the accumulation of life course experience of trauma, stress, and oppression are positively correlated with decreased mental well-being and that resilient coping may have a protective affect. Consistent with life course, stress process, cumulative disadvantage and intersectionality theories, research suggests that internal and external coping resources offer a protective advantage for mental well-being in later life. Yet, an often overlooked vulnerable population is older adults in prison. This study builds upon the extant literature by examining the mediating role of coping resources on the relationship between trauma and stressful life experiences, post traumatic stress symptoms and mental well-being among a sample of 677 older adults in prison.

METHODS:  Using a cross-sectional correlational design and self-report data from an anonymous mail survey and structural equation modeling, the following mediational model was tested: Coping resources will mediate the relationship between trauma and stressful life experiences, post traumatic stress symptoms and mental well-being among older adults in prison.The variables of central interest were measured using the Life Stressors Checklist-Revised (Individual and Structural Trauma and Stress T-SLE), the Coping Resources Inventory (Coping Resources-CR), and the Post Traumatic Checklist-Civilian and the Brief Symptom Inventory (Mental Well Being-MWB).

FINDINGS: Using structural equation modeling, The base model (with all parameters freely estimating) adequately fit the data (χ2=99.36, df=18, CFI = .95, RMSEA = .08[(.07 - .10]) All observed components of the latent variable measuring coping resources were significant and strong (β between .54 and .84). The latent variable of coping resources was significantly and inversely associated with TSLE (β = - 0.23, p <.001), PTSS (β = - 0.35, p <.001) and MWB (β=-0.08, p=.01). As expected, there was a significant path between TSLE and PTSS (β = 0.38, p<.001), which in turn predicted MWB (β = 0.83, p <.001). Subsequent model comparison resulted in significant fit erosion, indicating that the base model best represents the data and that each of the parameters tested was critical to overall model quality.

IMPLICATIONS: This information can be used to develop or improve mental well-being prevention, intervention and advocacy efforts geared towards older adults at risk of or involved in the criminal justice system. Moreover, the extent of trauma and abuse within prison contexts warrant a social work response related to elder justice and prisoner rights to safety, health, and well-being. Empowerment approaches with elders and prisoners that foster resilient coping in cognitive, physical, emotional, social and spiritual also are warranted.