An examination of the relationship between attachment organizations and personality characteristics in a sample of young female offenders
MetadataShow full item record
Mental health services for women in correctional settings have long been overlooked. The result is that while these women often need help, their unique needs are unmet. The purpose of this dissertation is to elucidate some of the specific characteristics of this population that is poorly understood. Due to the distinct relational needs of female offenders, it is proposed that an understanding of the attachment characteristics of this population is particularly valuable, and should perhaps be the basis for approaching treatment. Therefore, this study examined the relationship between personality characteristics, attachment organizations, and psychological distress in a sample of young female offenders who were incarcerated at Texas Youth Commission. Based on the research findings of Espelage et al. (2003) that describe personality characteristics in this population, and the attachment framework of Bartholomew and Horowitz (1991), it was expected that participants in this study would primarily be characterized by antisocial and borderline personality features (as measured by the MCMI-III; Millon, 1994). In addition, it was proposed that participants characterized by antisocial personality features would exhibit a dismissing style of adult attachment and a lack of psychological distress while participants with borderline personality features would exhibit a fearful style of adult attachment and an expression of psychological distress. Results provide support for the prominence of antisocial and borderline personality features in this sample of female offenders. However, there was no relationship between personality characteristics, attachment style and psychological distress. In order to further examine the nature of attachment in this sample, exploratory results investigated the relationship between attachment style and gang membership, and found that endorsement of gang membership was related to secure attachment, and to a lesser degree, preoccupied attachment. Implications of these findings were further discussed. Limitations and contributions of this study in addition to suggestions for future were also explored. In particular, it was suggested that future research examine these same characteristics of personality and attachment from a broader and more nuanced lens, which would reflect the complexities inherent in the population of female offenders.