Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Psychology


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Greg Dear


Manuscript 1: It is generally acknowledged that prison is often a stressful environment, yet little is known of the coping processes employed by prisoners. This paper aims to examine the question of what facilitates and frustrates prisoners' use of social support whilst imprisoned. This question is examined with regards to both informal (family and friends, other prisoners) and 'formal sources of support (professional support services, peer support prisoners, prison officers). The conclusion that was drawn from this review of the literature is that the role of social support in correctional environments is largely unknown and current thinking is based primarily on anecdotal evidence. Future research should examine prisoners' evaluations of support sources so that services can be directed to best meet prisoners' needs. Manuscript 2: Obtaining support is an important aspect of coping with stress. The purpose of this study was to determine whether prisoners' perceptions of the quality of support differed across support sources. Seventy male sentenced prisoners provided ratings of a perceived support for each of nine potential sources of support. Family members were perceived as providing the highest quality of support with prison officers the lowest. Family members were most often used for support and were perceived as the most helpful. Support from other prisoners, family, and workshop instructors were perceived as the most accessible. The data support the intuitive notion that prisoners' access to family is crucial. The data also question the viability of unit management.