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Abstract (english)

Abstract scienze cliniche e sessuologiche

This abstract constitutes a partial illustration of the investigation described in the book:

The place of the denied love. Sexuality and secret psychopathologies
Il posto dell'amore negato. Sessualità e psicopatologie segrete

Authors: Leonardo Boccadoro & Sabina Carulli

Edizioni Tecnoprint - Ancona
ISBN 9788895554037

An investigation has been performed on sexuality and correlated pathologies on a group of subjects confined in "total institutions" as prisons and rehabilitation communities. Sexual, relational and psychopathological characteristics of these subjects are taken into consideration.
Perhaps for the first time in Europe, this kind of research has been carried out thanks to a standardised, thus indisputable tool on a very sensitive and so long consciously neglected matter: the inmates' "sex planet".
Despite being deprived of their personal dignity, these subjects still feel the need for affectivity and relationality, or better still, they feel it more than ever. Being barred from finding different ways to release it, they often express it through the excess of sexual perversions and through degenerations produced by psychopathology, all of these aberrations have been invariably found in the sample. Besides psychodynamic and sociological explanations, this study also provides likely and desirable solutions to the problem.

Sexuality and sexual-related psychopathologies have been studied in a group of subjects confined to Total Institutions. Following Goffman's propositions, this research deals with prisons and rehabilitation communities (Goffman, 1961).
The idea of exploring affectiveness, sexuality and relationships within total institutions stemmed from the lack of specific and methodical studies on this subject: sexual-relational matters in confining settings had often been tested using theoretical and narrative methods based on personal experiences and observations. However, these writings, despite being remarkable in view of the period and/or their aim, have failed to represent a well-established research framework aiming at studying and analysing the subject-matters in a structured way.
The results of this research are drawn from the Reports produced by a software through processing of the questionnaires the surveyed subjects had previously filled in. The conclusions this survey has come to show mental and physical sufferings of people living in "a separate world".
The elements drawn from the Reports show:

  • general data of the sample aggregate;
  • standardised scores of discomfort areas;
  • emerging critical traits.

Critical traits represent a sort of "afflictive marks" characterising the aggregates under examination: "single-condition" males (sub-aggregate M-S) and "couple-condition" males (sub-aggregate M-C) respectively .
Single condition means the absence of a stable sexual or affective relationship of the subjects with a partner, whether couple condition means the existence of a sexual and/or affective relationship with a partner lasting for at least six months.

Exploring affectiveness, sexuality and relationships of those subjects "separated" from society and having limited personal freedom can allow to know that obscure and sometimes impenetrable world hiding behind bars, regardless of whether they are visible like those of a prison, or invisible like those of rehabilitation centres and communities.
The research tool used in this assessment is a sexual-relational questionnaire called Sesamo_Win (Boccadoro, 2002), a standardised and validated test which can be anonymously filled in.
The survey is essentially aimed at those areas concerning previous and present sexuality. At the same time, all those elements which, even indirectly, could have affected the formation and expression of personality, affectiveness and relationality, are also taken into consideration.
The software processing the tests analyses and decodes the answers to the questionnaire, and generates a Report: a multifactorial "idiographic image" which evaluates the subject's sexual, relational and pathological condition. "Idiographic image" is the representation of a result which has been obtained thanks to a study or research method whose subject-matters are specific cases, i.e. a portrayal which avoids nomothetic generalizations" (Wikipedia online, Idiographic_image, 2008).
A complete Report is made up of 9 parts (see SESAMO Test). Specifications of those sections of the report which were used in the research are as follows:
• Personal data and household
It shows a summary of personal data (Body Mass Index included), household composition, present affective-relational condition and "off-the-cuffs" comments expressed by the subjects soon after completing the questionnaire.
• Questionnaire scoring per area
This section regards rough points, Z scores (standard scores) and the relative percentile-rankings obtained by the subjects in each research area.
• Critical traits
It shows a synthesis of relevant and more significant (pathogenetic and pathognomonic) characteristics of the subjects' condition and of their sexual-relational fields.
Research hypotheses required evaluating a sample of people living in those structures defined as "total institutions", i.e. those organizations that normally house people subject to loss or limitation of individual freedom, such as prisons and communities (i.e. rehabilitation centres).
In planning the survey, these bodies, besides possessing the independent variable imposed to the research, i.e. limitation of personal freedom of their residents, could also provide a reasonable chance to carry out the analysis using a pen-and-pencil version of the research tool.

Diagram 1 shows correlations of data: Age (arranged in a series of increasing values), Body Mass Index and Tabagism.

The trend of the graphs shows an average BMI of the sample of 25.5 (SD=2.6). Moreover, none of the subjects was underweight while 67.5% of the sample was overweight. This could indicate they sought food reward as a substitute for other unavailable satisfactions owing to confinement.
Tabagism is widespread among the surveyed population (91.9%), with a per capita average of 13.7 cigarettes per day (pro die). Alcoholism, tabagism and drug addictions actually affect people in total institutions to a greater extent than general population. Tabagism, especially when started in early age, is often connected to various illnesses and to deviance-prone behaviours (Richard & Senon, 1999).
Numerical parameters expressed in Z scores (standard scores) obtained by each of the subjects in their respective research areas allow to evaluate those areas of greater suffering emerging from the sample. The results indicate that the average discomfort of the sample exceed the "statistical normality" limit both in the aggregate M-S (1.15 standard points beyond the limit), and in the aggregate M-C (1.35 standard points beyond the limit). Consequently, it can be said that the sample shows a clear degree of discomfort compared to non-convict population which has been used to settle the normative scores of the test.
The average number of discomfort areas is 7.9 for singles and 9.8 for couple-condition subjects. This indicates that the latter have a greater discomfort degree compared to singles.
Cronbach's coefficient alpha was measured in order to check the reliability of the scores. This indicator synthesises the reliability of tests and allow to acknowledge the consistency of the subjects' attitude relatively to the items of the test (whenever alpha > 0.7).
Cronbach's coefficient Alpha was 0.80 for aggregate M-S and 0.73 for aggregate M-C. These scores show a good internal consistency of the test and sufficient suitability of the answers of the sample.

The report provided by the data processing software shows several concise assessments, called "critical traits", for each subject.
An inferential analysis of these traits has been carried out in order to gather those traits expressing a single "emerging trait". This has been made in order to depict the discomfort of the sample as concisely as possible.
18 common elements have been extrapolated from the test. They have been called Emerging Critical Traits (ECT) and their value is very similar for single subjects and couple-condition ones. These data indicating predominance of discomfort have been placed in descending order, according to their percentage value of significance (see Diagram 2).

Emerging critical traits:

  • Paraphilias (11.4%)
  • Psychological dependence and egocentrism (9.6%)
  • Sexual desire (8.2%)
  • Premature/absent ejaculatory incompetence (7.9%)
  • Obsessiveness (5.7%)
  • Difficulty of accepting regression (5.7%)
  • Depressive equivalents (5.4%)
  • Tabagism (5,4%)
  • Alexithymical indicators (5.2%)
  • Reported diseases (4.6%)
  • Relationship with parental figures (4.5%)
  • Shyness, relational inhibition and aggressiveness (4.2%)
  • Social-environmental conditions (4.0%)
  • Dysfunctional body perception (3.7%)
  • Anxiety (3.7%)
  • Lack of self-esteem (3.7%)
  • Erectile dysfunctions (3.0%)

At the end of this excursus relating to social-affective and sexual-relational disorders found in the examined population, it can be useful to think about the need for an evolution in the field of total institutions. This would allow to acknowledge the possibility to maintain affective bonds in decent and dignified conditions in all those places where people live in confinement.
It is basically a question of understanding that convicts, despite their difficulties, are in evolution and that their reintegration involves restoring their capability to have relationships with their relatives and that these relationships cannot be reduced to superficial hygienic sexuality. Probably, it is more a question of right to affectivity than to sexuality (Gravier & Lamothe, 1988).
It must be highlighted that a "crossover" is likely to happen between the disorders extrapolated thanks to this survey and criminal records: several clinical pieces of research on rapists, for instance, describe weak, unsuitable men who are insecure of their masculinity and socially maladjusted, suffering from anxiety, depression and rage in addition to sexual conflicts and dysfunctions, such as impotence and premature/retarded ejaculation (Kaplan, 1979).
In the final analysis, after carrying out this research on the universe of total institutions, it can be said that the subjects of the sample, all of them belonging to that category of individuals who live in a condition of limited personal freedom owing to their deviant past, show more affective, sexual and relational sufferings and discomforts than people who are not confined to convicting institutions.
What is still to be established is whether these subjects entered rehabilitation institutes as a consequence of their deviant affective-relational characteristics or the dysfunctional elements were created or worsened by their convicting condition.
In order to ascertain this possibility, a longitudinal study keeping cohorts of subjects under observation during their entrance in the institution and after a certain period of conviction would be needed. The latter would be a further objective and a future development of research on sexuality and affectivity in total institutions.


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