A longitudinal study of mental health symptoms in young prisoners : exploring the influence of personal factors and the correctional climate

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BMC Psychiatry. 2016, 16, 91. eISSN 1471-244X. Available under: doi: 10.1186/s12888-016-0803-z
Zusammenfassung

Background
Despite the high prevalence rate of mental health problems among young prisoners, little is known about the longitudinal course and covariates of their mental health symptoms during incarceration, especially the influence of the correctional climate. The current study aimed: (1) to examine changes in young prisoners’ mental health symptoms during incarceration, (2) to identify personal factors associated with their mental health symptoms and perceptions of the correctional climate, and (3) to test the incremental effect of perceptions of the correctional climate on mental health symptoms.

Methods
Data were obtained from a sample of 75 youths (aged 17 to 22 years) detained in a Portuguese young offender prison. Data were gathered 1, 3, and 6 months after their admission in this facility. Socio-demographic, clinical and criminological variables were collected. Mental health symptoms and perceptions of the correctional climate were assessed through self-report assessment tools. Linear and logistic (multi-level) regressions and tests for differences between means were performed to analyze the data.

Results
Overall, mental health symptoms marginally declined by the sixth month in prison. Prisoners with a history of mental health treatment were more likely to have increased symptoms. Higher levels of mental health symptoms were associated with a history of mental health treatment, remand status, and a lower educational level. Better perceptions of the correctional climate were associated with Black race and participation in prison activities. A negative perception of the correctional climate was the strongest covariate of young prisoners’ mental health symptoms and had incremental validity over that of personal variables.

Conclusions
The results highlight that both characteristics of the prisoners and of the prison environment influence young prisoners’ mental health. Prison management can try to reduce young prisoners’ mental health problems by developing scientific procedures for their mental health assessment and creating a more beneficial correctional climate.

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ISO 690DA CUNHA GONCALVES, Leonel, Jérôme ENDRASS, Astrid ROSSEGGER, Anja J. E. DIRKZWAGER, 2016. A longitudinal study of mental health symptoms in young prisoners : exploring the influence of personal factors and the correctional climate. In: BMC Psychiatry. 2016, 16, 91. eISSN 1471-244X. Available under: doi: 10.1186/s12888-016-0803-z
BibTex
@article{daCunhaGoncalves2016-12longi-34248,
  year={2016},
  doi={10.1186/s12888-016-0803-z},
  title={A longitudinal study of mental health symptoms in young prisoners : exploring the influence of personal factors and the correctional climate},
  volume={16},
  journal={BMC Psychiatry},
  author={da Cunha Goncalves, Leonel and Endrass, Jérôme and Rossegger, Astrid and Dirkzwager, Anja J. E.},
  note={Article Number: 91}
}
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    <dcterms:abstract xml:lang="eng">Background&lt;br /&gt;Despite the high prevalence rate of mental health problems among young prisoners, little is known about the longitudinal course and covariates of their mental health symptoms during incarceration, especially the influence of the correctional climate. The current study aimed: (1) to examine changes in young prisoners’ mental health symptoms during incarceration, (2) to identify personal factors associated with their mental health symptoms and perceptions of the correctional climate, and (3) to test the incremental effect of perceptions of the correctional climate on mental health symptoms.&lt;br /&gt;&lt;br /&gt;Methods&lt;br /&gt;Data were obtained from a sample of 75 youths (aged 17 to 22 years) detained in a Portuguese young offender prison. Data were gathered 1, 3, and 6 months after their admission in this facility. Socio-demographic, clinical and criminological variables were collected. Mental health symptoms and perceptions of the correctional climate were assessed through self-report assessment tools. Linear and logistic (multi-level) regressions and tests for differences between means were performed to analyze the data.&lt;br /&gt;&lt;br /&gt;Results&lt;br /&gt;Overall, mental health symptoms marginally declined by the sixth month in prison. Prisoners with a history of mental health treatment were more likely to have increased symptoms. Higher levels of mental health symptoms were associated with a history of mental health treatment, remand status, and a lower educational level. Better perceptions of the correctional climate were associated with Black race and participation in prison activities. A negative perception of the correctional climate was the strongest covariate of young prisoners’ mental health symptoms and had incremental validity over that of personal variables.&lt;br /&gt;&lt;br /&gt;Conclusions&lt;br /&gt;The results highlight that both characteristics of the prisoners and of the prison environment influence young prisoners’ mental health. Prison management can try to reduce young prisoners’ mental health problems by developing scientific procedures for their mental health assessment and creating a more beneficial correctional climate.</dcterms:abstract>
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