Death anxiety, mental health and length of incarceration in male felons

John F. Schumaker1, Gary Groth-Marnat1, Frank I. Dougherty2, Kimberlea C. Barwick3
1Warrnambool Institute, Australia
2South Carolina Department of Corrections, United States
3Columbia College, United States
Cite this article:  Schumaker, J. F., Groth-Marnat, G., Dougherty, F. I., & Barwick, K. C. (1986). Death anxiety, mental health and length of incarceration in male felons. Social Behavior and Personality: An international journal, 14(2), 177-182.

Volume 14 Issue 2 | e508 | Published: August 1986 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.2224/sbp.1986.14.2.177

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We employed the Templer Death Anxiety Scale and the Langer Mental Health Scale to examine death anxiety and mental health as a function of length of incarceration in 56 male prisoners, categorized according to homicidal, sexual, or nonviolent convictions. Nonoffenders (N = 60), closely matched by age, race, and socioeconomic background, served as a comparison group. While no significant death anxiety difference was found between offenders and nonoffenders with all participants included, sexual offenders had significantly higher death anxiety scores than nonoffenders. All 3 offender groups had significantly more reported psychopathology than nonoffenders. Both death anxiety and extent of psychopathology were inversely related to length of incarceration. Findings are discussed in terms of current arguments regarding the personality structure of capital offenders, as well as the possible value of a death threat in deterring serious crime.


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