Social Cognitive Theory

The purpose of the study was to determine the relationship of coping style with wellbeing of adolescent prisoners. This was after the reviewed literature revealed that incarcerated adolescents represent a vulnerable group to severe psychological distress. While the adolescents are most likely victims of home violence at young ages while others abuse drugs and alcohol, they suffer from isolation, bullying, and boredom during incarceration. It is notable that some prisoners only experience high levels of distress during their first weeks in prison and later cope with prison life while others maintain significant distress levels resulting to high risks of suicides, depression and anxiety, and self-harm. The study was carried on 133 male adolescent prisoners to determine the effect of coping theories (Brown & Ireland, 2006). According to coping theories, Sharma (2016) argues that distress is moderated by a person’s behavioral and cognitive efforts to reduce the impact of stressors.

The study reported that there were significant decreases in depression and anxiety six weeks after incarceration. It was also reported that as people stay in prisons, emotion coping decreases while detachment coping increases as a result of significant decreases in depression and anxiety. Prisoners who change from emotion to detachment coping have lower distress levels and this is helpful in the context of the initial incarceration period. It was also reported that newly imprisoned adolescents can modify their coping style and this suits specific environmental demands. This theory is applicable to determine how to help prisoners adapt to prison environment or to change prison environment to reduce distress levels. This is because high rates of re-offending are linked to inappropriate coping responses. In addition, prisoners experiencing long-term emotional suppression leads to deleterious effects on psychological and physical health (Brown & Ireland, 2006).




Brown, S. L., & Ireland, C. A. (2006). Coping style and distress in newly incarcerated male adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Health, 38(6), 656-661.

Sharma, M. (2016). Theoretical foundations of health education and health promotion. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.