Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Human Development and Family Studies

Department name when degree awarded

Family and Human Development

Committee Chair(s)

Randall M. Jones


Randall M. Jones


Brent C. Miller


Jay D. Schvaneveldt


Thomas R. Lee


One hundred ninety-four inmates responded to a measure that taps Erikson's fifth stage of psychosocial development, dealing with the issues of identity. Information concerning previous and current criminal activity, along with basic demographic information, was also collected. Cross-checks conducted on selected information within the Utah State Department of Correction's computer system suggest validity for inmate self-reports. The criminal behavior questions were addressed in two main sections: previous and current criminal behavior.

Results illustrate consistent relationships that exist between criminal behavior and cognitive identity style (the corollary to Marcia's identity statuses). The identity styles represent the process involved with personal decision making and problem solving. Individuals with the style labeled "Information orientation" thoroughly consider relevant information before decisions and commitments are made; those with a "Normative orientation" are primarily concerned with the expectations of significant others; and those with a "Diffuse/Avoidant orientation" procrastinate and fail to resolve confronting problems.

Findings suggest that previous criminal behavior was related to cognitive identity style; current criminal behavior was not. Specifically, Diffuse/Avoidant individuals are more likely to engage in substance use at a younger age than their criminal peers, get arrested younger, be involved in multiple arrests and convictions, have spent a longer time in prison and/or jail, and to have previous and current property convictions.

Inmates with a Normative style tend to use substances at an older age than their criminal cohorts, are about four years older at first arrest, have fewer arrests and convictions, spend less time incarcerated, and are more likely to have had a previous and current drug offense. Information-oriented individuals tend to straddle these extremes on most variables and show no profound trends in the data. Discrimination between Diffuse/Avoidant and Normative individuals has been found previously in substance use research.



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