Date of Graduation

Spring 2010


Master of Arts in Communication



Committee Chair

Isabelle Bauman


identity, juvenile offenders, communication, rehabilitation, change

Subject Categories



There is longstanding debate in juvenile justice about what to do with offenders. This thesis examines why rehabilitative programs are seeing lower recidivism rates than traditional punitive systems. Focusing on theories from psychology, sociology and communication, the answer seems to rest in these programs abilities to stimulate internal processes by focusing on the interactive creation of non-delinquent identities and the removal of negative peer affiliations. Utilizing Erikson's identity crisis model, social identity theory and the coordinated management of meaning, this paper examines the factors that lead to sustained change internally, externally and interactively. Thirty-seven participants currently in state juvenile rehabilitation programs were categorized into three groups, early, middle and late treatment stages, and were surveyed to identify change throughout the treatment stages in identity status, gender identity, and verbal aggressiveness and argumentativeness. Interviews were conducted to further understand the experience of youth in rehabilitation programs focusing additionally on identityrelated stigmatization, incoherence, and social relationships. Results indicate that identity change does not occur within treatment programs but rather upon release. This suggests that the processes that occur within treatment programs serve to prepare youth to make positive choices when released back into the community. These findings further our understanding of why rehabilitative programs are successful and this information may be helpful as more juvenile justice programs shift from punitive to rehabilitative focus.


© Erin Elisabeth Pagel

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