The Relationship between Childhood Maltreatment Histories and Close Friendship Conflict for Women in Prison

Mahmoodzadegan, Negar, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Loper, Ann, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Konold, Timothy, ED-EDLF Department, University of Virginia
Cornell, Dewey, ED-EDHS Department, University of Virginia
Warren, Janet, Department of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences, University of Virginia
David, Joseph, Department of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences, University of Virginia

This study investigated the range and depth of childhood maltreatment experiences (maternal, paternal and sexual) among a group of incarcerated women, and the impact of these maltreatment experiences on women's close friendship conflict within the prison setting. Subjects included 121 female inmates at a maximum-security prison in Central Virginia who all screened positive for a Cluster B personality disorder. Participants for the present study were selected from a larger pool of women participating in a dual-stage, prison-wide investigation of the prevalence of personality disorders and emotional and behavioral adjustment to the prison environment. Measures used to assess childhood maltreatment history included: the Psychological Maltreatment Scale (Briere & Runtz, 1988a); the Physical Maltreatment Scale (Dass, 1995) and the Sexual Maltreatment Scale (Dass, 1995). Close friendship conflict was measured with four subscales of the Revised Conflict Tactics Scale (CTS-2) (Straus, Hamby, McCoy & Sugarman, 1996), including: Physical Assault, Psychological Aggression, Physical Injury, and Negotiation. Additional qualitative information about women's childhood maltreatment and close friendship was also gathered.
Descriptive results revealed that a majority of women in the sample had experienced frequent and severe maltreatment experiences (maternal, paternal and/or sexual) during childhood. Scores on all three maltreatment scales were significantly higher than has been found in community samples utilizing similar measures (Briere & Runtz, 1988a). Results also indicated high levels of close friendship conflict among women across the various subscales of the CTS-2 (Straus et al., 1996). Generally speaking, childhood maltreatment was not found to be associated with close friendship conflict, although regression analyses revealed that women with a history of maltreatment, particularly sexual maltreatment, reported higher levels of self-initiated conflict resolution in their closest friendship. Overall, this study has important clinical utility for mental health providers in the prison setting, as it provides much-needed empirical information about the nature of incarcerated women's childhood maltreatment histories and the ways in which aggression and conflict-resolution are expressed in their close friendships.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
incarcerated women, childhood maltreatment, friendship conflict, conflict resolution

"Department of Clinical and School Psychology."

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