Alternative Title

Coping responses by women romantically involved with incarcerated men

Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis

Study Type



School for Social Work


Prisoners' spouses-Psychology, Women-Psychology, Adjustment (Psychology), Stress (Psychology), Women, Incarceration, Stress, Coping


Research related to coping responses of women romantically involved with, or married to, incarcerated men has been unexamined in social work literature. This study examined how women romantically involved with, or married to, incarcerated men cope with economic, social and emotional stress associated with their partners ’ incarceration by examining their use of problem-focused, emotion-focused and avoidant-focused coping styles. The study answered to what extent do women romantically involved with, or married to, incarcerated men utilize adaptive coping responses, especially paying close attention to experiences of African American women. Using quantitative methods, the Brief COPE —a 28-item inventory—was administered to 67 women—whose partners were incarcerated—through online support communities. Findings show women are no more likely to use adaptive coping responses than maladaptive coping responses when coping with stress related to the incarceration of their partner. Within adaptive coping responses, women were significantly less likely to seek use of instrumental social and emotional support. Additionally, within maladaptive coping responses, women were just as less likely to vent. Women employ a variety of coping responses due to living with sexism and other biases related to their gender and are adept to cope with stress. However, women’s inability to seek social and emotional support —as well as vent—is related to feeling shamed and ostracized by societal influences. Clinicians should apply a strengths-based approach when working with these women to lean in towards developed coping strategies to increase social and emotional health while they are in partnership with incarcerated men.




iv, 63 pages. M.S.W., Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Ma., 2016. Includes bibliographical references (pages 41-44)

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