Incarcerated women are considered by psychologists as the riskiest group of the population because of their predispositions to mental disorders and depressions (Mooney et al., 2008). These disorders are often the results of the events which can be discussed as the causes for women’s imprisonment (Bastick & Townhead, 2008). Thus, the effects of past events in combination with the reality of being incarcerated often lead to the destruction of women’s psychological well-being when they are in prisons (Gunter, 2004).
The researchers determine a lot of factors that can be presented as the causes for the variations and changes of the women’s psychological states while they are imprisoned. These factors are often examined from the point of life course theory which was developed by Glen Elder, Leo Hendry, and Marion Kloep (Elder, 1998; Hendry & Kloep, 2002). Incarcerated women are at risk to suffer from great emotional and psychological tension which can be the result of their past actions, past events in their lives, and life transitions (Lovell, Gagliardi, & Peterson, 2002; Maltz & Mullany, 2000). The life-course theory presents the study of definite consequences of people’s actions and events in their lives from several perspectives which are historical, developmental, and social (Elder, 1998).
The main focuses of the theory are on such aspects as the influence of life transitions and past events on people’s lives, historical context, and individual development (Elder, 1998). That is why life course theory can be considered as the theoretical framework for the development of this research which will be effective for analyzing the possible impacts on incarcerated women’s well-being in prisons.
Incarcerated women often feel their bleakness, powerlessness, and their marginalization which are the results of their thoughts about the past events and the real conditions of their lives in prisons. These factors influence the women’s psychological well-being, and this is the first step to the development of their depressive states (Fallot, & Harris, 2002). To understand the intensity of the impact of life transitions and past events on the psychological well-being of incarcerated women, it is necessary to concentrate on the development of the issue in a definite country. The situations in prisons in the Western world are studied properly (DeHart, 2008; Keaveny & Zauszniewski, 1999). That is why it is important to focus on examining the problem in prisons for women in Kenya as an example of the issue’s development in African countries.
Statement of the Problem
The situation which is connected with female inmates in prisons is discussed very rarely in comparison with providing the investigations on the problems of incarcerated men (Daly, 1992). Moreover, such women are considered as ‘invisible’ and their problems also become ‘invisible to the public. Nevertheless, there are a lot of issues that require immediate studying (DeHart, 2008; Keaveny & Zauszniewski, 1999). The psychological state of incarcerated women is one of the most important questions for these women in prisons and the legal administration because any psychological problems caused by different effects can be dangerous for the woman’s psychological well-being in prisons, their mental and physical health, their relations with each other (Fallot, & Harris, 2002).
To have the opportunity to prevent possible cruel reactions and develop the measures for overcoming these problems, it is necessary to study the factors which can affect incarcerated women’s psychological well-being, moral and emotional states. The most effective method to investigate these factors is to study their interdependence with past events and life transitions which are the key aspects of life course theory (Keaveny & Zauszniewski, 1999).
The problem of the impact of life transitions and past events on the psychological well-being of incarcerated women should be discussed with references to a single field for the research. Thus, this problem in connection with the women in the Kenyan prisons is not fully discussed by the researchers. That is why it is important to pay attention to the study of the issue based on the incarcerated women’s psychological well-being in the Kenyan women with focusing on the principles of life course theory. Moreover, the notion of well-being in this context should be discussed in its general meaning as the characteristic of the psychological state of the women in prisons with paying attention to positive and negative aspects of this state and emotional reactions.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of the research is to examine the fact of life transitions and past events’ impacts on the psychological well-being of incarcerated women in prisons in Kenya; to analyze the ways according to which life transitions and past events can affect the incarcerated women’s psychological state with basing on life course theory; to focus on the quality of this effect (positive and negative aspects); to determine the possible interdependence between negative effects of life transitions and past events and imprisoned women’s depressions, psychological and mental disorders.
The following necessary aims were determined to achieve the purpose of the study according to the principles of life course theory:
- To critically review the information about the aspects and realities of incarcerated women’s lives in Kenyan prisons with paying much attention to their psychological well-being to determine the tendencies to develop negative or neutral (positive) reactions to the conditions of their lives.
- To examine the aspects and peculiarities of incarcerated women’s lives before the fact of their imprisonment and determine the details which can be considered as the causes for their current situation and psychological well-being (with using the information from online resources, blogs, networks which is provided by the members of their families and relatives, media).
- To focus on the principles of life course theory and explain the peculiarities of incarcerated women’s psychological state with paying much attention to the aspects of life transitions and past events.
Research Questions and Hypothesis
The study involves a lot of aspects for the examination and discussion. That is why it is necessary to concentrate on the important questions to complete the aims of the research. To develop the complex research, it is necessary to give answers to the following questions during the investigation of the problem:
- What are the peculiarities of those Kenyan women’s psychological well-being who are imprisoned?
- Is any difference between the situation in Kenyan prisons and the women’s prisons in the other regions (the United States, Europe)?
- What impact can have life transitions and past events for personal development?
- What life transitions and events can be considered typical for describing the peculiarities of the past life for those women who are imprisoned?
- What effects can have life transitions and past events on the psychological well-being of the incarcerated women in Kenya?
The hypothesis for the study can be formulated the following way: life transitions and past events as the main categories of life course theory can be considered as the most influential factors for affecting the psychological well-being of incarcerated women in Kenya which is characterized as predominantly negative (the development of depressions, mental and psychological disorders).
Review of the Literature
The problems and challenges which incarcerated women can experience while being in prison are discussed in the works by Daly, DeHart, Bastick and Townhead. In their investigations, the authors concentrate on the factors which caused the women’s be imprisoned (Daly, 1992; DeHart, 2008, Bastick & Townhead, 2008). Bastick and Townhead present the complex analysis of the situation with incarcerated women for all the world’s regions, giving the general view of the fact (Bastick & Townhead, 2008).
Fallot and Harris focus on the Trauma Recovery Empowerment Model (TREM) and the peculiarities of its usage for determining the aspects of people’s psychological state (Fallot, & Harris, 2002). In their work, Keaveny and Zauszniewski examine the definite aspects of the influence of life events on psychological well-being in women sentenced to prison which are necessary to be discussed more properly in this study (Keaveny & Zauszniewski, 1999). The authors concentrated on the study of the relations between the life events and the issues of depressions characterized for incarcerated women of the Western culture and determine the dependence between these factors (Keaveny & Zauszniewski, 1999). Thus, the results of the research can be useful for analyzing the peculiarities of the situation for women in Kenyan prisons. Moreover, Gunter discusses the relations between the situation of being imprisoned for women and their depressions focusing on the aspects of gender and determining the psychological differences in the behaviour of men and women in prisons (Gunter, 2004).
The peculiarities of life course theory are presented in the works by Elder, Hendry, and Kloep. Elder discusses all the main aspects of the theory which are required for the analysis of the main research’s problem (Elder, 1998). In their turn, Hendry and Kloep determine four major types of events that are influential for personal development which is maturational, normative, quasi-normative, and non-normative and discuss their impact on the person’s life (Hendry & Kloep, 2002).
A further discussion of the lifespan developmental perspectives is presented in the work by Alwin and Wray. The researchers analyze the problem from the point of social status and health by determining the correlation between these two factors (Alwin & Wray, 2005). The problem of trajectories and turning points that can change the trajectory and, thus, change life are discussed in the work by Wheaton and Gotlib who concentrate on life trajectories with references to life course theory (Wheaton & Gotlib, 2006). In this context, turning points are those events that are sudden and unexpected and their consequences influence life changes (Wheaton & Gotlib, 2006).
The articles by Umra and Njeru present the vision of the real situation in the Kenyan prisons and the peculiarities of women’s life there with references to their emotional and psychological states (Umra, 2011; Njeru, n.d.). Nevertheless, those works which discuss the possible impact of life transitions and past events on the psychological well-being of incarcerated women explain the peculiarities typical for the Western world. That is why it is necessary to examine the accessible data and materials presented in the media resources and Internet to analyze the current situation in women’s prisons in Kenya in detail with concentrating on the issue of the life course theory.
The peculiarities of the topic of the study on the problem of the relationship between life transitions and past events and the psychological state of imprisoned women affected the choice of the methods for its further effective development. Thus, the research is based on the theoretical discussion of the problem with the proper analysis of the evidence given from the different kinds of media and Internet resources.
The sample for the study is women’s prisons in Kenya. The incarcerated women’s psychological well-being is under the research’s analysis.
The data and the necessary materials which are studied in the research should be collected with the help of examining several online resources, blogs, articles in newspapers, journals, and magazines, the information provided by the members of the incarcerated women’s families and by their relatives.
The findings of the investigation will be analyzed according to the principles of life course theory based on its two main categories which are life transitions and past events as the main influential factors for the personal and social development of a man. Moreover, it is also necessary to pay attention to the examination of the impact of one person’s life on the factors known as turning points which can change the life trajectory.
To evaluate the findings of the research and to present the possible results achieved according to the purpose of the study, it is necessary to use qualitative methods which are more effective for the development of the theoretical investigation of the problem.
- Alwin, D.F, & Wray, L.A. (2005). A life span developmental perspective on social status and health. Journal of Gerontology, 60B(special issue), 7-14.
- Bastick, M. & Townhead, L. (2008). Women in prison.
- Daly, K. (1992). Women’s pathways to felony court: Feminist theories of lawbreaking and problems of representation. Review of Law and Women’s Studies, 2, 11-52.
- DeHart, D.D. (2008). Pathways to prison: Impact of victimization in the lives of incarcerated women. Violence Against Women, 14(12), 1362-1381.
- Elder, G. H. (1998). The life course as developmental theory. Child Development, 69(1), 1-12.
- Fallot, R.D., & Harris, M. (2002). The Trauma Recovery Empowerment Model (TREM): Conceptual and practical issues in a group intervention for women. Community Mental Health Journal, 38(6), 475-485.
- Gunter, T.D. (2004). Incarcerated women and depression: A primer for the primary care provider. Journal of the American Medical Women’s Association, 59(2), 107-112.
- Hendry, L. B., & Kloep, M. (2002). Lifespan development. USA: Cengage Learning EMEA.
- Keaveny, M.E., & Zauszniewski, J.A. (1999). Life events and psychological wellbeing in women sentenced to prison. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 20(1), 73-89.
- Lovell, D., Gagliardi, G.J., & Peterson, P.D. (2002). Recidivism and use of services among persons with mental illness after release from prison. Psychiatric Services, 53(10), 1290-1296.
- Maltz, M.D., & Mullany, J.M. (2000). Visualizing lives: New pathways for analyzing life course trajectories. Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 16(2), 255-281.
- Mooney, J.L., Minor, K.I., Wells, J.B., Leukfeld, C., Oser, C.B., & Tindall, M.S. (2008). The relationship of stress, impulsivity, and beliefs to drug use severity in a sample of women prison inmates. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 52(6), 686-697.
- Njeru, G. Kenya: Prison policies for mothers leave children at odds. Web.
- Umra, O. (2011). Kenya’s invisible women.
- Wheaton, B., & Gotlib, I.H. (2006). Trajectories and turning points over the life course: Concepts and themes. In I.H. Gotlib & B. Wheaton (Eds.), Stress and adversity over the life course: Trajectories and turning points. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.