Online Program

A qualitative investigation of trauma and stress, coping resources, and well-being among older adults in prison

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Tina Maschi, PhD, LCSW, ACSW, Graduate School of Social Service, Fordham University, New York, NY
Deborah Viola, PhD, Center for Regional Healthcare Innovation, Center for Regional Healthcare Innovation, Valhalla, NY
Background: Research on stress and coping in prison has generally focused on youth and adult populations in prison. However, little is known about the experiences of stress and coping among older adults in prison. The objective of this study was to explore the processes of stress and coping among a sample of older adults in prison.

Methods: This study used a cross-sectional, correlation design and a sample of 677 older adults in a northeastern state correctional system. Participants completed a mailed survey that included open-ended questions about their experiences of stress and coping in prison. A grounded theory constant comparative approach was used to identify the processes of stress and coping of older adults in prison

Findings: The results of constant comparative analysis revealed two major prison themes: trauma and oppression and resistant resilience. Participants described trauma and oppression as interpersonal and structural and cultural violence in the form of inmate-on-inmate and staff-inmates attitudes, and violence, institutional and policy abuse, and an internalization of trauma oppression in the form of depression, anxiety, and apathy. Resistant resilience consisted of participants' use of ‘well-being practices' or activities to ward off the traumatic and oppressive conditions of confinement. Participants' reported engaging in activities that fostered their root (basic survival), physical, cognitive, emotional, social, spiritual, and participatory well-being and empowerment.

Implications: These findings suggest areas of health promotion, stress management, and trauma informed care that are useful for older adults under the stressful conditions of prison confinement.

Learning Areas:

Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Explain trauma, stress, and oppression from a prisoners’ perspective; Define and describe what resistant resilience consists of. List stress management strategies that assist prisoners in coping with depression and anxiety and other environmentally induced stressors.

Keyword(s): Criminal Justice, Aging

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Tina Maschi, PhD, LCSW, ACSW is an associate professor at the Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service with a research portfolio of research on trauma and stress among vulnerable populations, including older adults in the criminal justice system. She has over 20 years of reseasrch and practice experience in correctional healthcare issues and practice. Her publication and presentation includes over 60 peer reviewed publication and national and international conference presentations.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.