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Empowerment and Social Support: Implications for Practice and Programming Among Minority Women with Substance Abuse and Criminal Justice Histories


Programs for women with substance abuse and criminal justice histories often incorporate empowerment and social support into service delivery systems. Women’s empowerment research has focused on the relationship between women’s personal identities and the larger sociopolitical context, with an emphasis on how community-based resources are critical for promoting well-being. Social support often protects against negative outcomes for individuals who live with chronic stress. However, few studies have evaluated community resource knowledge and empowerment among marginalized women or how social support might strengthen or weaken this relationship. This study investigated resource knowledge, social support, and empowerment among 200 minority women in substance abuse recovery who had recent criminal justice involvement. Results indicated that resource knowledge was related to empowerment and belonging social support marginally moderated this relationship. In addition, education level increased and current involvement in the criminal justice system decreased empowerment. Implications for research, practice, and policy are discussed.

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Funding for this study made possible in part through the National Institute of Health, Center of Minority of Health and Health Disparities (NCMHD) grants #5R24MD002748-02. We also acknowledge the National Institute of Drug Abuse research training grant (T32 DA 019426: J.K. Tebes, P.I.). Address all correspondence to the fourth author at DePaul University, Center for Community Research, 990 W Fullerton, Chicago, IL, 60614.

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Correspondence to Bronwyn A. Hunter.

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Barringer, A., Hunter, B.A., Salina, D.D. et al. Empowerment and Social Support: Implications for Practice and Programming Among Minority Women with Substance Abuse and Criminal Justice Histories. J Behav Health Serv Res 44, 75–88 (2017).

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  • Social Support
  • Criminal Justice
  • African American Woman
  • Criminal Justice System
  • Resource Knowledge