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Title: Prisoner confrontations : the role of shame, masculinity and respect
Author: Butler, M.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2007
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This study aims to investigate the psychosocial dynamics involved in male prisoner-on-prisoner confrontations (fights, assaults, arguments and threats). The psychosocial literature on aggression suggests shame, masculinity and a weak sense of self may predispose individuals to engage in confrontations as a means of ego defence (Gaylin, 1984; Katz, 1988; de Zulueta, 1994; & Gilligan, 1996). This study seeks to examine whether measures of shame and masculinity derived from the self-narratives of prison participants can predict involvement in prisoner confrontations. Eighty-nine adult male prisoners were voluntarily recruited from a Category C prison in England and asked to complete various social and psychological questionnaires, whilst also taking part in semi-structured interviews about their life experiences both in and outside of prison. All interviews were tape-recorded, transcribed and then coded for themes of shame and definitions of masculinity. One month later, the participants were also asked to complete a self-reported involvement in prisoner confrontations questionnaire. The participants’ accounts of their confrontations were analysed to determine what kinds of confrontations occur, in which settings and for what reasons. From these accounts it seems that the participants’ main motivations include defending the self, conforming to prisoner norms, releasing frustration and self-defence. A series of tobit regression analyses were then used to test whether themes of shame, masculinity and biased cognitions could predict the men’s self-reported involvement in prisoner confrontations during the following month. This analysis found that themes of shame and masculinity could significantly predict the participants’ subsequently involvement in prisoner confrontations, whilst controlling for possible confounding variables. Biased cognitions were not found to predict their involvement in confrontations. Participants who reported themes of unresolved and acknowledged shame tended to engage in more confrontations than those who did not express such themes.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available