ABSTRACT: The negative effect of a custodial sentence on juvenile self-esteem is discussed. It is
argued that individual coping resources offer an explanation for the inconclusive findings of earlier studies in this field. Findings of a cross-sectional study of 299 prisoners (14 to 24 years) are presented. The results show that the stability of self-esteem during incarceration depends on both accommodative and immunizing coping reactions. Prisoners who do not possess at
least one of these coping resources show particularly low self-esteem at the start of their term of imprisonment. This creates the misleading impression that for the average individual, selfesteem increases during a period of custody. The study also shows that in the latter period of a prison term, accommodative coping resources also tend to support an increase in immunizing reactions. Implications for longitudinal studies and for practical interventions in the juvenile custody system are discussed.
International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology. 01/2001; 45:749-768.