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Post‐traumatic growth in prisoners and its association with the quality of staff–prisoner relationships

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Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health

Published online on


["Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health, Volume 31, Issue 1, Page 49-59, February 2021. ", "\nAbstract\n\nBackground\nBeing sentenced to imprisonment can be traumatic. This may lead to further negative effects, including reoffending or disorders of mental health. Emerging research, however, has suggested that traumatic events can, at times, also lead to post‐traumatic growth, leading us to question whether prisoners could experience this.\n\n\nAims\nOur aims were to explore the prevalence of post‐traumatic growth in prisoners and any association between this and prisoners' perceptions of the quality of their relationships with staff. Our primary hypothesis was that there would be a positive association between perceptions of the quality of relationships with staff members and post‐traumatic growth. We also hypothesised an interaction between staff–prisoner relationships and the extent to which sentencing was experienced as traumatic.\n\n\nMethod\nThe Post‐traumatic Growth Inventory and the Barrett‐Lennard Relationship Inventory were distributed to all 762 prisoners in a high‐security prison for adult men in England. First, one‐tailed correlations between variables were run, then a hierarchical regression analysis was conducted to test for an interaction between staff–prisoner relationship ratings, trauma of sentencing and post‐traumatic growth.\n\n\nResults\nJust over one fifth of the men (n = 160) returned questionnaires; 76 (48%) had scores indicative of moderate‐to‐high post‐traumatic growth. There was a significant positive association between perceptions of the relationships with staff members and the post‐traumatic growth reported. There was no significant interaction between the staff–prisoner relationships and the experience of trauma of imprisonment.\n\n\nConclusions\nOur study extends understanding of prisoners through finding that higher levels of self‐rated post‐traumatic growth were associated with experiencing empathy, positive regard, acceptance and genuineness from prison staff. This highlights the need for high‐quality relationships to be adopted in all aspects of prison setting and culture and offers further direction for research into such relationships and their role in promoting positive psychological outcomes.\n "]