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February 1978

Life Events and Prisoners

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle. Dr Cutler is now with the Southern Arizona Mental Health Center, Tucson. Dr Hein is currently in private practice in Highland, Calif.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1978;35(2):197-203. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1978.01770260075009

• This study explores retrospectively the relationship of the accumulation of life events as it relates to prison incarceration and extends further the concept that coping with increasing environmental changes results in a variety of overt behaviors. The prison sample comprised 176 male inmates of a federal prison (McNeil Island, Washington) and a state penitentiary (Walla Walla, Washington). Life change scores were derived from the Schedule of Recent Experience (SRE). There was an escalation of annual life change scores of prisoners, indicating the mounting frequency of occurrence of life events prior to incarceration. The SRE may have value in the prediction of socially deviant behavior as with health changes. Variables seen as influencing life change scores were race, age, and education.

Analyses of life event frequencies as compared to a normative group indicated that prisoners have evolved a coping life-style that reflects antisocial and criminal behavior.