College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Theses and Dissertations

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empowerment, women, substance abuse, offenders, Oxford House


The construct of empowerment has been utilized in many different contexts and with various populations. Previous research and theory on empowerment emphasized developing empowerment based interventions for underserved and overlooked population. Two populations that could benefit from an empowerment intervention are women who have a history of substance abuse and/or past involvement in the criminal justice system. Research identified many unique barriers and needs for women who abuse substances, such as providing gender-specific programming, trauma focused therapy and counseling, social support, and comprehensive follow up services such as childcare and housing. A subset of women who engage in substance abuse have also had some involvement in the criminal justice system. Women in the criminal justice system often have similar needs to those of women who engage in substance abuse; however,they often face additional challenges due to the stigmatization and discrimination they experience for being an ex-offender in society. Although various models of aftercare have been proposed to address the needs of women in recovery and women ex-offenders, the Oxford House model, a self-run, democratic, sober living environment, may provide a unique set of factors that empower women through their recovery and reentry into the community. Previous research demonstrated that variables such as abstinence from substances, length of stay in Oxford House, social supports, self-efficacy, as well as the characteristics of the house may aid in women's successful outcomes. The present study explored factors empowerment for women who live in Oxford House throughout the United States. Consistent with previous theory on empowerment, the results of the factor analysis revealed a three-factor model. Additional analyses revealed that women who lived in Oxford House for six months or more had higher empowerment scores than women who lived in an Oxford House for less than six months. Implications for theory and research on empowerment are discussed.