Childhood adversity and substance use of women prisoners: A general strain theory approach

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Journal of Criminal Justice, ISSN: 0047-2352, Vol: 40, Issue: 3, Page: 202-211

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Sharp, Susan F.; Peck, B. Mitchell; Hartsfield, Jennifer
Elsevier BV
Psychology; Social Sciences; General Strain Theory; Criminology
article description
The current paper seeks to add to the literature on General Strain Theory (GST) in two ways. First, it tests the efficacy of the theory in a sample of incarcerated women, adding to our knowledge of the generality of the theory. Second, it examines whether specific individual measures of strain or an index of cumulative strain provide more information about the relationship between strain and deviance. To explore this issue, we examine the effects of individual strains versus the cumulative impact of strain on daily drug and alcohol use prior to incarceration using data from the 2008 and 2009 Oklahoma Study of Incarcerated Women and Their Children. Our measures of strain are drawn from the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study. The analyses indicate that certain tenets of GST do predict daily drug use in this sample, thus suggesting the theory is has applicability to an offending population. The analyses further suggest that the explanatory power is similar, whether the individual or cumulative measures of strain are employed. However, a few key stressors appear to account for most of the explanatory power of the index, and there are some variations in which strains are related to the type of substance used.