SOCIAL NETWORKS AND RECIDIVISM OF DEINSTITUTIONALIZED MENTAL PATIENTS
SCHREIBER, SYBIL COHEN
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Key factors which specifically affect the adjustment of deinstitutionalized mental patients discharged into the community were studied. The primary hypothesis was that participation in certain social networks reduces the incidence of recidivism. More specifically, positive social relationships, either provided through family (informal social network) or community mental health agency (formal social network) or both reduce the likelihood of a return to the hospital. Secondary hypotheses included the following: (a) maintenance of work activity serves to reduce recidivism and (b) maintenance of appropriate living arrangements serves to reduce recidivism.;The sample, drawn from two northeastern New Jersey counties, had been hospitalized at a specific state psychiatric hospital. The research compared two segments of this discharged population--those in community-based work programs and those who were also released but not engaged in these programs. The study used both retrospective and prospective approaches and was conducted in two stages. In the first phase the total sample was selected through the use of statistical data from case records. Then, in-depth face-to-face interviews were held with a sub-group of the total sample. The second phase of the study was a follow-up of both the total sample and sub-sample three years later. The research data than were subjected to both quantitative and qualitative analysis.;The major findings of the study showed that social networks, both formal and informal, play an important role in the rehabilitation of deinstitutionalized mental patients and have an influence on the need for rehospitalization if and when relapses occur. The variables--agency involvement, level of family support, affiliation with work program, and living situation--when viewed separately were statistically significant in reducing or preventing recidivism of former mental patients. When the variables of agency involvement and type of family were combined, agency involvement was significantly related to recidivism after family related influences were taken into account while the reverse was not true. Former patients with no agency involvement and a negative family situation are most likely of becoming recidivists while those involved with an agency and a positive supportive family are least likely to reenter the hospital system.