Chapter 5: Results, Conclusions, and Recommendations, Dissertation – Conclusion Example

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Dissertation - Conclusion

Introduction

Thus far, the research conducted has thoroughly indicated that labeling an individual as a sex offender will create long term negative effects and lead to consequences that are often times beyond the control of the individuals, as well as their families. Because of these consequences and long term negative effects, there are often high stress levels associated with the sex offender status. These will often serve as risk factors in alcohol abuse (Dion & Earn, 1975). Also, there are individuals who cope with these negative life circumstances by using drugs and alcohol to offset the stereotypes that society has placed upon them. They also use the drugs and alcohol in many cases to cope with various issues in their daily lives as well as subpar living conditions. These individuals participate in self-medication to alleviate the psychological distress brought about by a culmination of indicators that are described in the preceding sections of this paper (Hall & Queener, 2007).

The review of the literature indicated that the experience of specific incidents of treatment deemed by Landrine and Knonoff (1996) as unfair may generate stress and have negative ramifications on the general health of sex offenders. The sex offender label in itself will most likely have an impact on the opportunities an individual and his family have as far as relationships, housing, and employment, which are an important part of the sex offender’s reintegration into mainstream society.

These factors are closely associated with poor mental health and increased stress levels (Tewksbury, 2005). In addition, Mexican-Americans have a higher rate of alcohol-related problems compared to the overall population. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health [Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA, 2008)] estimates that 24% of Mexican-Americans participate in binge drinking and over 5% are heavy drinkers when alcohol is concerned.

The purpose of this study was to examine the connection between psychological distress associated with the sex offender label and the increase in the consumption of alcohol after that label has been assigned among Mexican-American Sex Offenders. The study sample consisted of adult male Mexican Americans who have been arrested for a sexual offenses. A better understanding of the relationship among stigma, alcohol use, and stress was explored by using the self-medication hypothesis (SMH) as an explanation for the use of alcohol as a way of coping with high levels of stress. The overall mental health of sex offenders is paramount because Hispanics, especially those of Mexican descent, are one of the fastest growing demographic populations in the United States. The research hypothesis that framed this study was:-

Hypothesis 1: It is hypothesized that the relationship between stigma and alcohol use is fully mediated by the experience of stress such that if level of stress is taken into account, the relationship between stigma and alcohol abuse is no longer significant. This was assessed through the testing of the null hypothesis:

Null Hypothesis 1 (H01): After taking into account the mediating effect of stress, there is no significant relationship between stigma and alcohol use.

The research hypothesis was assessed through analysis of quantitative data from a sample of 86 adult male Mexican Americans who have been arrested for a sexual offense.  Participants were recruited from the Community Supervision and Corrections Department (CSCD).  Participants were invited to participate in the study during their monthly visit to the department.

Summary of Findings

The study sample consisted of 86 Mexican American Sex Offenders (MASO). Of this sample the majority were High School Diploma (52.3%).  60.5% of MASO spoke English as their primary language. 39.5% were married and 74.4% were legal residents or born United States of America.

The research hypothesis was assessed by conducting two mediation analyses to statistically test if stress mediates a significant relationship between stigma and alcohol use.  The criterion variables were participants’ level of alcohol use before and after their sex offense conviction.  Analysis 1 assessed alcohol use before their conviction while Analysis 2 assessed alcohol use after their conviction.  The variables were measured by 10 items on the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT).  Participants responded twice to each of the ten questions to assess their alcohol use prior to and after their sex offense conviction. The predictor variable for Analyses 1 and 2 was participants’ perceived social stigma (Stigma) as measured by the 10-item Stigmatization Scale (SS). The mediating variable was participants’ perceived level of stress (Stress) as measured by the 10-item Perceived Stress Scale (PSS).

The research hypothesis was:

Null Hypothesis 1 (H01): After taking into account the mediating effect of stress, there is no significant relationship between stigma and alcohol use.

Alternative Hypothesis 1 (HA1): After taking into account the mediating effect of stress, there is a significant relationship between stigma and alcohol use.

Mediation Analysis 1

Results indicated that one significant relationship existed in Steps A. That is, Stigma and Alcohol Use before Conviction were significant and positively related (R2 = .050, p = .041). Meaning, as Stigma increased, the participants’ Alcohol Use before Conviction increased as well. Results from Steps B and C indicated no significant relationships between Stigma and Stress (R2 = .012, p = .341) and Stress and Alcohol Use before conviction (R2 = .020, p = .197). Additionally, the multiple regression analysis found that stress did not mediate a significant relationship between Stigma and Alcohol Use before conviction; R = .253, ∆R2 = .064, F (2, 81) = 2.771, p = .069 (two-tailed). This result does not support the presence of a mediating effect.

Mediation Analysis 2

Analysis 2 was assessed using mediation analysis. Results indicated that no significant relationships existed in Steps A-C. That is, Stigma and Alcohol Use after Conviction were not significantly related (R2 = .002, p = .702); Stress and Stigma were not significantly related (R2 = .012, p = .314); and Stress and Alcohol Use after Conviction were not significantly related (R2 = .016, p = .248). Additionally, the multiple regression analysis found that stress did not mediate a significant relationship between Stigma and Alcohol Use After Conviction; R = .139, ∆R2 = .019, F(2, 81) = 0.804, p = .451 (two-tailed). This result does not support the presence of a mediating effect.

Exploratory ANOVA Analysis

Using IBM SPSS 20, analysis of variance (ANOVA) was conducted to determine if a significant difference in alcohol use existed prior to and after a sexual offense conviction. The criterion variable was Alcohol Use and the predictor variable was the time period (Time Period) in relation to the participants’ sex offense conviction (before conviction and after conviction). Results from the ANOVA test revealed that a significant difference in Alcohol Use did exist between time periods; F (1, 166) = 18.502, p < .001, partial eta-squared = .100. Before Conviction mean scores (M = 5.90, SD = 5.322) were significantly lower than after conviction mean scores (M = 10.08, SD = 7.138). These results indicate that participant’s alcohol use significantly increased after their sex offense conviction.

Conclusions and Implications

The theoretical premise of this study lays in The Self-Medication Hypothesis (SMH) w formulated by Edward Khantzian, in 1985. Assumptions are that “specific psychotropic effects of drugs on psychological disturbances and painful affect states make them compelling in susceptible individuals” (Khantzian, 1985 p. 1259). Conger’s tension reducing hypothesis, stating that “alcohol serves to reduce tension or distress, possibly because of the depressing and tranquilizing effects of alcohol on the nervous system. Drinking is thus reinforced by the tension reduction effects obtained” (Conger, 1956, p. 175) was also considered very useful in linking alcohol with sex offender tendencies among Mexican American.

Therefore, alcohol use (and use of other substances) is a responsive reaction to negative personal states. This negative state can be due to the experience of unpleasant and painful physical or psychological states. While physical pain will usually lead sex offenders to seek the assistance of a physician, psychological pain or distress may lead attempting or actual illegal sexual activity.

Results from this quantitative analysis revealed there was no significant relationship between stigma and alcohol use as mediated by stress. Additionally, there were no relationships between stigma and alcohol use, stress and stigma, and stress and alcohol use observed.  Precisely, stress did not mediate a significant relationship between stigma and alcohol use. Notably, however, a significant difference between the amount of alcohol used before and after conviction was identified.

The implication of this finding is that alcohol use in itself did not create a feeling of stigmatization.  This was true of stress as well. More so, stress did not correlate with exceptional alcohol consumption nor did it mediate the effect of stigmatization on alcohol consumption.  Given that before conviction mean scores (M = 5.90, SD = 5.322) were significantly lower than after conviction mean scores (M = 10.08, SD = 7.138).

Therefore, the theory ‘alcohol reduces tension or distress, possibly due to the depressing and tranquilizing effects of alcohol on the nervous system seems related to these findings. The fact that the relationship between stigma and pre-conviction alcohol use was significant, whereas the relationship between stigma and post-conviction alcohol use was not, can be explained by the increase in alcohol use witnessed. The lower levels of pre-conviction alcohol use may have driven the relationship witness with stigma, while post-conviction levels were considerably higher. The implication is that post-conviction alcohol use is high, regardless of perceived stigma.

Evidence from the literature review reveled that historically, Mexican-American adults have been known to be at a higher risk than the rest of the population for alcohol-related problems (National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, 2009). They reported a prevalence rate of alcoholism in an average of four percent of Mexican Americans during the years 2001-2002 (Blume et al., 2009).

According to Gonzalez et.al (2011) the hopelessness among Mexican-Americans due to socioeconomic factors such as living conditions, poor wages, and an overall poor lifestyle has been known to be a large contributor to depression and this has been believed to help lead to a lifestyle of drinking and alcoholism.

However, Results from the present study neither support nor contradict Gonzalez et al.’s (2011) findings. While present results indicated alcohol consumption rate increased after conviction, it was not found that this increase was related to an increase in stress levels. This does not, however, imply that increased alcohol consumption is not due to increased depression among this group. Mexican-Americans experience greater depression and hopelessness after conviction due to consequences in regards to lifestyle.

An important focal point of this study is the inclusion of Mexican American sex offenders as participants. Data from foregoing literature review showed where most of the current theories in sex offender treatments focused on the Caucasian population, but it was necessary to have a diverse competency in the ability to treat sex offenders of every culture and ethnicity because whether African-American or Mexican-American sex offenders there appears to be significant differences in the way sex offenders are treated based on ethnicity. It is a limitation in this study because there was little scope in comparison with other ethnic groups. The inclusion of non-Caucasian participants broadens the scope of the literature as a whole.

Additionally, Mexican-American sex offenders are sometimes categorized as Caucasian-Americans or at times not categorized at all. This makes it difficult to directly compare results of this study with those mentioned in the literature review. These misclassifications result inaccurate data concerning the amount of MASO in the United States (Siese, 2012).

Recommendations for Further Study

Further research is recommended as to the necessity of sex offender labeling. That is does labeling help reduce recidivism among sex offenders? If this is the case, this may lead to further research, such as whether a similar labeling system for offenders of other crimes, such as murder, drug abuse; domestic violence and larceny would be beneficial.

Research is necessary to further investigate the finding that stigma and alcohol use prior to conviction were related, yet stigma was not related to alcohol use post-conviction. Additional research should also be conducted to determine what other factors may affect the change in alcohol use found in the present sample. Given the implications by Gonzalez et al. (2011) that high alcohol use among Mexican Americans may be due to feelings of hopelessness and depression, it may be of value to assess depression levels against alcohol use among convicted sex offenders (Gonzalez et. al, 2011)

While this study was not a comparative analysis of Mexican-American versus Caucasian sex offenders’ treatment and likelihood of being convicted, the literature review highlighted studies that Mexican Americans experience higher conviction rates. Spohn and Holleran (2000) found that Mexican-Americans were 15.3% more likely to be convicted of felonies than Caucasians in Chicago and they were 10.3% more likely in Miami. Spohn and Holleran (2000) also found that in cases of sexual assault where the victim is Caucasian and the defendant is not, there is a much greater chance of conviction, as well as longer sentences and a decreased chance of early parole (Spohn and Holleran, 2000)

Ulmer and Johnson (2004) similarly found that in areas of Pennsylvania where there was is a high ratio of Mexican-Americans to Caucasian Mexican-Americans received harsher sentences they received upon conviction were harsher sentences upon conviction (Ulmer & Johnson, 2004). Further research should be conducted.

.Recommendations for Practice

Based on the research findings, it is recommended that alcohol abuse programs be openly available and attendance at such programs encouraged among convicted Mexican-American sex offenders. Given that alcohol use rates increase significantly post-conviction, encouraging or even mandating attendance at either alcohol abuse groups or a responsible alcohol use educational seminar may be of value to help these individuals moderate their alcohol intake.

More often form a psychological perspective labeling has a fulfilling prophesy effect on individuals. These sex offenders evidently do confirm to this label. Psychologist ought to recognize this dysfunction as a vital to the intervention. Therefore when designing programs the a major goal should be to remove these debilitating psychological effects first.

Obviously alcohol abuses after conviction reflects the outcome of fulfilling this prophesy. If they were labeled alcoholics before it is only fitting to be that now they have been ascribed the added label of sex offender. This could also delay the respond to mediation since it all embodied in the psychology of labeling.

Restatement of Limitations

Since all participants were derived from a population within the Community Supervisions and Corrections Department (CSCD), the sample included just sex offenders who were currently being supervised in the community.  The selection criteria were sexual offense was for which participants were arrested. It was, however, difficult to determine due to denials by sex offenders.  This could have resulted in alterations in the extent of the offense reported by many participants. Date of placement in community supervision was the criteria used in establishing the initial labeling date for the purposes of data gathering.

This sampling technique limited the quality and quantity to those who were currently on community supervision, excluding those who were not. A large number of participants under community supervision were identified by the CSCD. A self-reporting data collection technique was adapted for offense, demographic, and criteria data. Results were generalized to men who had sexually abused and those not arrested.  However, due to the limited number of adult female MASO on community supervision, they were excluded in the study. According to Vandiver (2010), sex offenders are typically committed by males; females account for only a small proportion of offenses. For example, of the 14,299 individuals arrested for sexual offenses in 2004, 8% (1,159) were females (U.S. Department of Justice, 2005b).

Summary

This aim of this study was to examine a connection between psychological distress associated with the sex offender label and the consumption of alcohol among Mexican-American Sex Offenders.  According to the 2010 United States Census, Mexican-Americans are the minority population with the most rapid growth rate. It is therefore, crucial to understand problems associated with sex offenders among the Mexican-American population because as the general population increases, so does the number of MASO (Lowe, Pavkov, Casanova, & Wetchler, 2005). Results from the sample studied indicated that use of alcohol significantly increased after sex offender conviction among Mexican-Americans.

However, stress was not found to moderate the relationship between stigma associated with sex offender label and alcohol use. Further research is encouraged to determine whether depression plays a role in sex offender alcohol use, as is suggested by Gonzalez, as well as effects of consequences to labeling, such as deprived social interactions. It is also recommended based on the findings that alcohol abuse and responsible drinking programs be available to offenders.

 

 

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