Women in prison with traumatic brain injury (TBI) : prevalence, mechanism and impact on mental health.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMasters of Science
INTRODUCTION: The number of offenders in the New Zealand prison systems is increasing at a rapid rate. More interestingly, the female offender population is growing almost twice as fast as their male counterparts. However, very little research focusses solely on incarcerated females. Previous research with male offenders suggests that those who are incarcerated are more likely to have experienced a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in their lifetime when compared to the general population. Other research shows that an individual who presents with a TBI is more likely to suffer from both mental health issues and issues with sleep. The current study aims to look at these variables within a New Zealand female prison population, and has three main hypotheses: The sample of participants from the prison population will present with show high levels of TBI incidents; mental health issues (such as depression, anxiety and stress) will correlate strongly with TBI and; participants who experience their first TBI at a young age will present with higher levels of mental health issues than those who received their first injury at a later age. METHOD: The participants were recruited from all security levels at Christchurch Women’s Prison. Each participant answered a battery of questionnaires including the Achenbach System of Empirically Based Assessment-Adult Behaviour Checklist (ASEBA), the Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS-21), the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI), the Ohio State TBI Identification Method, and the Weschler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence (WASI). RESULTS AND DISCUSSION: We found that 94.7% of participants presented with at least one TBI, and 96 injuries were reported in 36 participants. Mental health and sleep issues showed varying levels across participants, and the when compared to other studies’ samples it was found that the participants in the current study presented with similar levels as other individuals who were incarcerated. One exception to this was depression, where the current sample was significantly more depressed than the male participants they were compared to. When the participants were split into younger (<9yrs of age at first injury) and older (9 years and older at first injury), several differences in mental health problems were evident including anxiety, stress and thought problems. This suggests that the earlier TBI is associated with an increased risk for adverse outcomes. More detailed information regarding female offending populations is essential for to the production of programmes aimed at reducing problems that may increase recidivism.