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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