Theses Doctoral

Extending the Rejection Sensitivity Model to the Stigma of Criminal Status: Trauma and Interpersonal Functioning in the Age of Mass Incarceration

Naft, Michael

Building on prior work on status-based rejection sensitivity, I propose a social-cognitive model of criminal-status-based rejection sensitivity (RS-criminal record) to account for differences in how people perceive and respond to threats of rejection based on their criminal histories. Study 1 develops a measure of criminal-status-based rejection sensitivity, defined as a tendency to anxiously expect, readily perceive, and negatively react to rejection based on one’s criminal status. Study 2 tests the predictions of the RS-criminal record model that anxious expectations of criminal-status-based rejection are associated with heightened perceptions of criminal-status-based rejection threat and responding to criminal-status-based stressors through self-silencing and anger.

Together, Studies 1 and 2 show that RS-criminal record is distinct from general interpersonal rejection sensitivity (RS-personal), race-based rejection sensitivity (RS-race), and other relevant stigma constructs. Study 3 tests the predictions of the RS-criminal record model experimentally, establishing evidence of the negative effects of criminal record disclosure, RS-criminal record, and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) on interpersonal effectiveness in an interview (as assessed by an interaction partner and outside observers) and subsequent affective states. The three studies also test the prediction, based on the dynamics of our model and evidence from focus groups, that higher levels of RS-criminal record should predict greater PTSD symptom severity. Together, these studies provide evidence of the utility of RS-criminal record to illuminate the psychological and structural pathways through which stigma can undermine the task of social integration after being released from prison.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Downey, Geraldine
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
June 16, 2021