Resilience of Women Under the Criminal Justice System


  • Mihaela TOMIŢĂ Professor, PhD, Faculty of Sociology and Psychology, West University of Timisoara, B- dul Vasile Parvan nr 4, 300223, Timisoara, Romania
  • Roxana UNGUREANU PhD candidate, Faculty of Sociology and Psychology, West University of Timisoara, B-dul Vasile Parvan nr 4, 300223, Timisoara, Romania


words, resilience, women, criminal justice system


In the last 25 years, the number of women caught in the criminal justice system has skyrocketed; many have been swept up in the "war on drugs" and subject to increasingly punitive sentencing policies for non-violent offenders. In this article, the authors discuss resilience defined as protective factors for women in criminal justice system (e.g., personality characteristics, biological characteristics, social and cultural factors, and community characteristics); as a process of adaptation (e.g., self‐ enhancement, positive cognitive appraisals, coping styles, and spirituality), including an iterative perspective on resilience as a cascade of protective processes; and as positive outcomes (e.g., lack of symptoms) following exposure to adverse events, in this case, women and girls caught in the criminal justice system. Many of these women struggle with substance abuse, mental illness, and histories of physical and sexual abuse. Few get the services they need. The toll on women, girls, and their families is devastating. Within each of these definitional frameworks, authors consider general conceptual issues pertaining to resilience.


Block, J., Kremen, M. (1996). IQ and ego-resiliency: conceptual and empirical connections in separateness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, nr. 70, pp. 349-361. doi:


Boals, A., Riggs, S.A., Kraha, A. (2013). Coping with stressful or traumatic events: What aspects of trauma reactions are associated with health outcomes? Stress and Health. Vol. 29, Nr. 2, pp. 156-163. doi: 10.1002/smi.v29.2.

Bowland, S. (2015). Aging in place or being warehoused? African American trauma survivors in mixed-age housing. Traumatology (Tallahass Fla), Nr. 21, p. 172-180. doi:


Brothers, S. (2016). Merchants, samaritans, and public health workers: secondary syringe exchanger discursive practices. International Journal of Drug Policy. Nr 37, pp. 1-8. doi:


Burnett, H.J., Witzel, K., Allers, K., McBride, D.C. (2016). Understanding the relationship of trauma, substance use, and resilience among religiously affiliated university students. Journal of Research Christian Education, nr. 25, pp. 317-334. doi: 10.1080/10656219.


Chang, V.Y., Bendel, T.L., Koopman, C., McGarvey, E.L., Canterbury, R.J. (2003).

Delinquents’ safe sex attitudes. Criminal Justice Behaviour, nr. 30, pp. 210-229. doi:


Davis, S.J., Spillman, S. (2011). Reasons for drug abstention: a study of drug use and resilience. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, Nr. 43, pp. 14–19. doi: 10.1080/02791072.


Ekinci, S., Kandemir, H. (2015). Childhood trauma in the lives of substance-dependent patients: The relationship between depression, anxiety and self-esteem. Nordic Journal of Psychiatry, Vol. 69, Nr. 4, pp. 249-253.

Fair, H. (2009). International Review of Women’s Prisons, Prison Service Journal, 184. Harter, S. (1999). The construction of the self: A developmental perspective. New York, NY:

Guilford Press.

Hills, F., Meyer-Weitz, A., Oppongo Asante, K. (2016). The lived experiences of street children in Durban, South Africa: violence, substance use, and resilience. International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-being. Nr. 11, doi: 10.3402/ qhw.v11.30302.

Jacelon, C. (1997). The trait of resilience. Journal of Advanced Nursing, Nr. 25, pp. 123–129. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2648.1997.1997025123.x.

Jones, L. (2012). Measuring resiliency and its predictors in recently discharged foster youth.

Child Adolescent Social Work Journal, Nr. 29, pp. 515-533. doi: 10.1007/s10560-012-


Kaplan, H. (1999). Toward an understanding of resilience: A critical review of definitions and models. In: Glantz M, Johnson J, editors. Resilience and development: Positive life adaptations. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum, pp. 17-84.

Kolar, K. (2011). Resilience: revisiting the concept and its utility for social research.

International Journal on Mental Health Addiction, Nr. 9, pp. 421-433. doi: 10.1007/s11469-


LaFromboise, T.D., Hoyt, D.R., Oliver, L., Whitbeck, L.B. (2006). Family, community, and school influences on resilience among American Indian adolescents in the upper Midwest. Journal of Community Psychol. Nr. 34, pp. 193-209. doi: 10.1002/jcop.20090.

Luthar, S.S., Cicchetti, D., Becker, B. (2000). The construct of resilience: a critical evaluation and guidelines for future work. Child Development, Nr. 71, pp. 543-562. doi:


Masten, A.S., Best, K.M., Garmezy, N. (1990). Resilience and development: contributions from the study of children who overcome adversity. Developmental Psychopathology, Nr. 2, pp. 425-444. doi: 10.1017/S0954579400005812.

Masten, A.S. (2001). Ordinary magic: resilience processes in development. American

Psychology, Nr. 56, pp. 227-238. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.56.3.227.

Masten, A.S. (2007). Resilience in developing systems: Progress and promise as the fourth wave rises. Development and Psychopathology, Vol. 19, Nr. 3, pp. 921-930. doi:


Masten, A.S., Monn, A.R. (2015). Child and family resilience: A call for integrated science, practice, and professional training’, in Family Relations, 64, 1, pp. 5–21. doi: 10.1111/ fare.12103

Schoedl, A.F., Costa, M.P., Mari, J.J., Mello, M.F., Tyrka, A.R., Carpenter, L.L., Price, L.H. (2010). The clinical correlates of reported childhood sexual abuse: An association between age at trauma onset and severity of depression and PTSD in adults. Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, Vol. 19, Nr. 2, pp. 156-170. doi: 10.1080/10538711003615038.

Shpiegel, S. (2015). Resilience among older adolescents in foster care: the impact of risk and protective factors. International Journal on Mental Health Addiction, Nr. 14, pp. 6-22. doi:


Soler, L., Paretilla, C., Kirchner, T., Forns, M. (2012). Effects of poly-victimization on self- esteem and post-traumatic stress symptoms in Spanish adolescents. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. Vol. 21, Nr. 11, pp. 645-653. doi: 10.1007/s00787-012-0301-x.

Tomiţă, M. (2013). The resilience of women drug users sentenced to the execution of a custodial sentence, Revista de Asistenţă Socială, nr. 4, pp. 95-106.

Yates, T.M., Grey, I.K. (2012). Adapting to aging out: profiles of risk and resilience among emancipated foster youth. Developmental Psychopathology, Nr. 24, pp. 475-492. doi:


Wathen, C.N., Tanaka, M., MacGregor, J.C.D., Ferro, M.A., McKee, C., Boyle, M., Ford- Gilboe, M., MacMillan, H.L. (2016). ‘Trajectories for women who disclose intimate partner violence in health care settings: the key role of abuse severity’, in International Journal of Public Health, 61, 8, pp. 873-882. doi: 10.1007/s00038-016-0852-6.

Additional Files