Date Awarded

Spring 2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




Charles F Gressard

Committee Member

Charles McAdams

Committee Member

Thomas J. Ward


Incarceration rates in the United States have risen over 500% in the last 30 years. of the millions of individuals incarcerated in jails and prison across the country, an alarming portion meet criteria for mental health and substance use disorders. Though several models of offender counseling exist, most were developed to treat sex offenders and all focus on recidivism reduction as an outcome measure. However, statistics show that almost half of individuals released from jails and prisons will be reincarcerated within five years of their release. Positive Psychology provides an alternative lens through which to view maladaptive behaviors; however, little research examines the use of Positive Psychology with offender populations. The purpose of this heuristic study was to explore the assumptions of the Broaden-and-Build Theory, a theory from the Positive Psychology literature, as it relates to the offender population. A sample of 109 offenders currently on probation completed a survey measuring key constructs of the Broaden-and-Build Theory including positive affectivity, negative affectivity, and subjective well-being. The survey also measured family life satisfaction and prosocial behavior. Positive relationships between positive affectivity, subjective well-being, and prosocial behavior was found. However, only positive affectivity was found to be a significant predictor of prosocial behavior. Additional key demographic features including education level and having children were also found to be significantly predictive of prosocial behavior. The results of this study provided support for the use of the Broaden-and-Build Theory with offender populations. Furthermore, these findings suggest the potential viability of a new model of offender counseling that may better address the needs of offenders and increase positive post-release outcomes.




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