Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

Randall H. Best


The field for research on women offenders provides an extensive opportunity for scientific investigation. Many writers (Gibbons, 1971; Cunningham, 1964; Sutherland, 1968) have discussed the causes of crime and their resulting social implications. Organized mass presentations of the movement of crime among women is negligible. Today female incarcerates make up approximately 11 per cent (Lerner, 1972) of the total number in state and federal penitentiaries. Previous research (Cunningham, 1964) on female felons found poor self-concept, excessive dependency and pathological emotionality to be a consistent pattern in women criminals. Other research (Apfeldorf, 1971; Guze, 1959) found criminal and non-criminal groups could be differentiated using actuarial techniques. The importance of learned behavior and attitudes, especially in relation to the family, was found (Gibbons, 1971) to be especially important in regards to female criminals.

Using non-clinical scales recently developed (Wiggins, 1966) forty incarcerated and non-incarcerated women were compared using the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory. The subjects were matched for age and education. The mean age of the total subjects was 24.92 and the mean of education for the two groups was 10.5. The subscales used were; Social Maladjustment, Depression, Feminine Interests, Poor Morale, Religious Fundamentalism, Authority Conflict, Manifest Hostility and Family Problems.

It was hypothesized that there would be no significant difference (p ≤ .05) on the first seven subscales previously mentioned. The H1 was that a significant difference (p ≤ .05) would be found on the Family Problems Scale.

The Mann Whitney U test revealed differences at the .01 level for seven of the eight scales. The other scale, Social Maladjustment, was significant at the .05 level. Tables report the z scores, the mean and standard deviation of each scale, and the range of raw scores for each scale.

Incarcerated women were found to have poorer morale, more authority conflict, family problems, and manifest hostility. The non-incarcerated group was found to be less socially aggressive more religiously oriented have more feminine interest and to be more depressed.

The limitations and implications for further research are discussed.