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Social Functioning, Victimization, and Mental Health among Female Offenders

Natalie Anumba, David Dematteo & Kirk Heilbrun

Criminal Justice and Behavior 2012;39 1204-1218.



Females who have experienced victimization or abuse during childhood tend to have poorer outcomes in adulthood with regard to criminal behavior, mental health, and social relationships. Although scholars have hypothesized that female offenders may benefit from programming that emphasizes empowerment and healthy relationships, empirical examination of this idea remains limited. Using a sample of 300 female offenders, this study empirically explored whether a history of victimization is a risk factor for future mental health problems and criminal behavior, and whether positive social functioning serves as a protective factor for females with histories of victimization. The results indicated that victimization history in this sample may not be associated with recidivism risk but with vulnerability to stress and mental health problems. In addition, the presence of social resources such as education and noncriminal friends appeared to act as a buffer against stress experienced as a result of life events.



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