Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to investigate changes in, and associations between, sense of coherence (SOC) and emotional distress in women who participated in an accredited motivational program (VINN) in correctional institutions in five countries.
Design/methodology/approach – A prospective study with a pre- and post-test design included 316 participants from Sweden, Estonia, Denmark, Russia and Norway. Global emotional distress was measured by the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale. SOC was measured using the 13-item Orientation to Life Questionnaire. One-way analysis of variance and multilevel regression models were used in the statistical analyses.
Findings – An increase in SOC was associated with a decrease in emotional distress. Emotional distress decreased significantly −3.80 points (95 percent CI (−4.61, −2.97)), and SOC significantly improved from pre- to post-measurement by 1.82 points (95 percent CI (0.72, 2.92)), regardless of country and correctional institution.
Practical implications – The results add new knowledge regarding a coherent theoretical foundation of a motivational program for women. The ability of a program promoting health is important for researchers, health-care workers and facilitators delivering programs for women in correctional facilities. An increase in SOC can act as a protective factor in order to manage stressors and risk factors among women serving in correctional facilities.
Originality/value – The present study indicates that enhancing women’s coping resources and providing income alternatives to crime is fundamental to their capacity to desist from criminal behavior.