Skip to main content Accessibility help

The Joint Contribution of Motivation and Coping to Prisoners’ Well-Being

  • María Ávila (a1) and Pilar Sanjuán (a2)


Motivation and coping are two of the most relevant factors associated to well-being. One of our objectives was to describe the motivation to pursue the personal goals, the coping strategies used to pursue them, and the levels of well-being experienced, in a group of people serving prison sentences (n = 175: 143 males and 32 females). We mainly wanted to study the joint contribution of motivation and coping on their well-being. The results have shown that motivation and coping contribute to the different dimensions of well-being. Specifically, we have found that autonomous motivation (AM) as well as problem solving (PS) and positive cognitive restructuring (PCR) coping positively predict self-acceptance (β = .12, p = .06; β = .17, p < .05; β = .24, p < .01 respectively), purpose in life (β = .12, p = .06; β = .35, p < .001 and β = .24, p < .001 respectively) and positive affect (β = .13, p = .06; β = .29, p < .001 and β = .28, p < .001 respectively). Personal growth was positively predicted by AM (β = .21, p < .01) and PCR coping (β = .21, p < .01), and negatively by avoidance coping (β = –.16, p < .05). Negative affect was positively predicted by social support (β = .16, p < .05) and avoidance (β = .42, p < .001) coping. None of the variables analyzed predicted life satisfaction. The results suggest that well-being promotion programs in prison settings should encourage the pursuit of goals by AM and the use of PS and PCR coping to achieve these goals.


Corresponding author

*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Pilar Sanjuán. Departamento de Psicología de la Personalidad de la Facultad de Psicología de la Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (Spain). Calle Juan del Rosal, 10, Ciudad Universitaria. 28040 Madrid (Spain). Phone: +34–913986276. E-mail:


Hide All
Banerjee, A., Chitnis, U. B., Jadhav, S. L., Bhawalkar, J. S, & Chaudhury, S. (2009). Hypothesis testing, type I and type II errors. Industrial Psychiatry Journal, 18, 127131.
Ben-Zur, H., & Zeidner, M. (2012). Appraisals, coping and affective and behavioral reactions to academic stressors. Psychology, 3(9), 713721.
Blevins, K. R., Listwan, S. J., Cullen, F. T., & Jonson, C. L. (2010). A general strain theory of prison violence and misconduct: An integrated model of inmate behavior. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 26(2), 148166.
Carver, C. S. (1997). You want to measure coping but your protocol’s too long: Consider the Brief COPE. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 4(1), 92.
Carver, C. S., Scheier, M. F., & Weintraub, J. K. (1989). Assessing coping strategies: A theoretically based approach. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 56(2), 267–238.
Caunt, B. S., Franklin, J., Brodaty, N. E., & Brodaty, H. (2013). Exploring the causes of subjective well-being: A content analysis of people’s recipes for long term happiness. Journal of Happiness Studies, 14, 475499.
Díaz, D., Rodríguez-Carvajal, R., Blanco, A., Moreno-Jiménez, B., Gallardo, I., Valle, C., & van Dierendonck, D. (2006). Spanish adaptation of the Psychological Well-Being Scales (PWBS). Psicothema, 18(3), 571576.
Diener, E., Kanazawa, S., Suh, E. M., & Oishi, S. (2015). Why people are in a general good mood. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 19(3), 235256.
Diener, E., Suh, E. M., Lucas, R. E., & Smith, H. L. (1999). Subjective well-being: Three decades of progress. Psychological Bulletin, 125(2), 276302.
Estes, R., & Sirgy, M. (2017). The pursuit of human well-being: The untold global history. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.
Gullone, E., Jones, T., & Cummins, R. (2000). Coping styles and prison experience as predictors of psychological well-being in male prisoners. Psychiatry, Psychology and Law, 7(2), 170181.
Hortop, E. G., Wrosch, C., & Gagné, M. (2013). The why and how of goal pursuits: Effects of global autonomous motivation and perceived control on emotional well-being. Motivation and Emotion, 37, 675687.
Huey, M. P., & McNulty, T. L. (2005). Institutional conditions and prison suicide: Conditional effects of deprivation and overcrowding. The Prison Journal, 85(4), 490514.
Kasser, T. (1996). Aspirations and well-being in prison setting. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 26(15), 13671377.
Lazarus, R. S., & Folkman, S. (1984). Stress, appraisal, and coping. New York, NY: Springer.
Lindquist, C. H. (2000). Social integration and mental well-being among jail inmates. Sociological Forum, 15(3), 431455.
Listwan, S. J., Colvin, M., Hanley, D., & Flannery, D. (2010). Victimization, social support, and psychological well-being. A study of recently released prisoners. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 37(10), 11401159.
Litman, J. A., & Lunsford, G. D. (2009). Frequency of use and impact of coping strategies assessed by the COPE Inventory and their relationships to post-event health and well-being. Journal of Health Psychology, 14(7), 982991.
López-Gómez, I., Hervás, G., & Vázquez, C. (2015). Adaptación de la Escala de Afecto Positivo y Negativo (PANAS) en una muestra general española [Adaptation of the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS) in a Spanish general simple]. Psicología Conductual, 23(3), 529548.
Lyubomirsky, S., Sheldon, K. M., & Schkade, D. (2005). Pursuing happiness: The architecture of sustainable change. Review of General Psychology, 9(2), 111131.
Mefoh, P., Okafor, A., Ezeah, E., & Odo, V. (2015). Relationship between coping strategies and psychological wellbeing of Enugu (Nigerian) prison inmates. European Journal of Social Sciences, 47, 270277.
Ministerio del Interior Español (2016). Anuario estadístico del Ministerio del Interior Español 2015 [Statistical Yearbook of Ministry of Home Office Affairs 2015]. Retrieved from
Morán, C., Landero, R., & González, M. T. (2010). COPE–28: A psychometric analysis of the Spanish version of the Brief COPE. Universitas Psychologica, 9(2), 543552.
Pavot, W., & Diener, E. (1993). Review of the Satisfaction with Life Scale. Psychological Assessment, 5, 164172.
Picken, J. (2012). The coping strategies, adjustment and well-being of male inmates in the prison environment. Internet Journal of Criminology, 1-29. Retrieved from
Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55(1), 6878.
Ryff, C. D. (2014). Psychological well-being revisited: Advances in the science and practice of eudaimonia. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 83, 1028.
Sanjuán, P., & Ávila, M. (2016). Afrontamiento y motivación como predictores del bienestar subjetivo y psicológico. Revista de Psicopatología y Psicología Clínica, 21, 110.
Shah, K. N., Majeed, Z., Walck, D., & Lin, F. V. (2017). Enhancing autonomous motivation mediates well-being improvement in HIV-infected older adults. Innovation in Aging, 1, 1167.
Sheldon, K. M., & Elliot, A. J. (1998). Not all personal goals are personal: Comparing autonomous and controlled reasons as predictors of effort and attainment. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 24(5), 546557.
Sheldon, K. M., Ryan, R. M., Deci, E. L., & Kasser, T. (2004). The independent effects of goal contents and motives on well-being: It’s both what you pursue and why you pursue it. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30(4), 475486.
Smith, A. L., Ntoumanis, N., Duda, J. L., & Vansteenkiste, M. (2011). Goal striving, coping, and well-being: A prospective investigation of the self-concordance model in sport. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 33(1), 124145.
van der Laan, A., & Eichelsheim, V. (2013). Juvenile adaptation to imprisonment: Feelings of safety, autonomy and well-being, and behavior in prison. European Journal of Criminology, 10(4), 424443.
van Harreveld, F., van der Pligt, J., Claassen, L., & van Dijk, W. W. (2007). Inmate emotion coping and psychological and physical well-being: The use of crying over spilled milk. Criminal Justice and Behaviour, 34(5), 697708.
Vázquez, C., Duque, A., & Hervás, G. (2013). Satisfaction with Life Scale in a representative sample of Spanish adults: Validation and normative data. The Spanish Journal of Psychology, 16, E82.
Watson, D., Clark, L. A., & Tellegen, A. (1988). Development and validation of brief measures of positive and negative affect: The PANAS Scales. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54(6), 10631070.
Wild, T. C., Cunningham, J. A., & Ryan, R. M. (2006). Social pressure, coercion, and client engagement at treatment entry: A self-determination theory perspective. Addictive Behaviors, 31, 18581872.
Wild, T. C., Newton-Taylor, B., & Alletto, R. (1998). Perceived coercion among clients entering substance abuse treatment: Structural and psychological determinants. Addictive Behaviors, 23, 8195.
Wildeman, C., Turney, K., & Schnittker, J. (2014). The hedonic consequences of punishment revisited. The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 104(1), 133164.
Wolgast, M., & Lundh, L.-G. (2017). Is distraction an adaptive or maladaptive strategy for emotion regulation? A person-oriented approach. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 39, 117127.
World Health Organization (WHO) (2013). The European health report 2012: Charting the way to well-being. Copenhagen, Denmark: Author.



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed