The interrelationship of locus-of-control and psychological symptoms in a male prison population

Ebi Daniel Okara, Tennessee State University


There is evidence of an increase in the population of mentally disordered inmates in the correctional institutions. A contributing factor has been the deinstitutionalization of mentally ill persons from state hospitals into communities with inadequate capacity to provide for the special needs of this population. In addition, the general population in these communities are at times intolerant of mentally disordered behaviors. As a result of these and other factors, individuals are at times arrested for mentally disordered behaviors and incarcerated instead of hospitalization. The continued increase of this population in the prisons is of concern thus, it is important to understand the psychological profile of such inmates in order to provide for their special needs. This study was designed to examine the relationship between generalized expectancies of control of reinforcement, which is theoretically based on social learning theory, and psychological symptoms in a male prison sample. A further objective of this study was to explore the symptom profiles of inmates among levels of security. The study consisted of a randomly selected sample of 75 inmates who volunteered from three correctional institutions (minimum, medium, and maximum security). The subjects were screened on reading and educational levels (8.0, and 8th grade or GED), respectively before asked to volunteer. The major variables in this study were expectancies of control of reinforcement, psychological symptoms, length of time in prison, and frequency of isolation. Rotter's I-E and Levenson's IPC scales were employed to measure generalized expectancies of control; and SCL-90-R was used to determine psychological symptoms. Other variables were obtained from Personal Data sheet and inmate's institutional folder. The results show that although Externals were not greater on overall psychological symptoms than Internals, they could be distinguished from Internals on some symptom profiles. Powerful others orientation was related to length of time in prison but not to number of times disciplined by segregation. Finally, although the difference among levels of security on overall severity of psychological symptoms was not greater as the levels increased, the manifestation of some symptom dimensions were greater the higher the security level. (Abstract shortened with permission of author.)

Subject Area

Educational psychology|Criminology

Recommended Citation

Ebi Daniel Okara, "The interrelationship of locus-of-control and psychological symptoms in a male prison population" (1989). ETD Collection for Tennessee State University. Paper AAI9017225.