Fathering Journal: imprisoned fathers edition

17 October 2005

FATHERING journal – Vol. 3 Issue 3 – is devoted to articles on imprisoned fathers returning to their families – as follows:

Randal D. Day, Alan C. Acock, Stephen J. Bahr, and Joyce Arditti

“Incarcerated Fathers Returning Home to Children and Families: Introduction to the Special Issue and a Primer on Doing Research with Men in Prison” (183-200)

Abstract: Men are returning to family life following prison experience in record numbers. The accelerated rates of incarceration in the U.S. are contributing to strained federal and state budgets and disrupted family life in communities across the nation. It has been proposed that successful re-entry into family life may positively influence re-arrest rates. However, there is only sparse research about the familial aspects of the prison, re-entry, and re-arrest cycle. This study is a report of a pilot study that examines a methodological attempt to obtain data from men in prison about to be released and their partners. The results show that collecting data from the men was much easier than from their partners/spouses. Additionally, it was found that men’s ideas about their relationships with their spouses and children may be unrealistic, ambiguous, and unclear. Suggestions are made about future research and research methods with this unique group.

Keywords: father involvement, incarcerated father involvement, incarcerated fathers, father-child contact, fathering identity

Article code: FR0303_183-200

Wm. Justin Dyer

“Prison, Fathers, and Identity: A Theory of How Incarceration Affects Men’s Paternal Identity” (201-219)

Abstract: With incarceration and recidivism rates escalating and the failure of many former prisoners to reconnect with family post-release, the cost to society and to children of incarcerated parents is quickly rising. While intervention on the family level is thought to have great promise in reducing recidivism, in order to effectively guide research and intervention, current theory must be evaluated for its sensitivity to the context of incarceration and additional theoretical work is needed to conceptualize how incarceration affects paternal identity. This paper proposes using Identity Theory to conceptualize how incarceration influences how fathers think of themselves. Using Burke’s 1991 Identity Theory conceptualization, this paper explores how the unique context of prison interrupts the paternal identity confirmation process which subsequently affects familial relationships and reconnection.

Keywords: fatherhood, incarceration, prison, father involvement, identity

Article code: FR0303_201-219

Lynda Clarke, Margaret O’Brien, Randal D. Day, Hugo Godwin, Jo Connolly, Joanne Hemmings, and Terri Van Leeson

“Fathering behind Bars in English Prisons: Imprisoned Fathers’ Identity and Contact with Their Children” (221-241)

Abstract: Fathers who live apart from their children have been investigated mainly through the lens of separation, divorce, and re-partnering. With the growing prison population in many western countries, fathering from prison is emerging as a further significant context in which to understand the contemporary experience of fathers in families. This paper contributes to the developing research evidence about the meanings and experiences of fathering whilst in prison, by presenting new data from a pilot study of 43 men serving sentences in English prisons. Using an ecological framework, the authors propose that prison context overwhelms “responsible” or “active” fathering for prisoners and that mothers are central figures in the facilitation of father-child visitation contact.

Keywords: fatherhood, fathers in prison, father-child contact, father identity

Article code: FR0303_221-241

Stephen J. Bahr, Anita Harker Armstrong, Benjamin Guild Gibbs, Paul E. Harris, and James K. Fisher

“The Reentry Process: How Parolees Adjust to Release from Prison” (243-265)

Abstract: We explored the reentry process by interviewing 51 parolees three times over a period of three months after their release from prison. In addition, we interviewed 19 parole officers and tracked each parolee for six months after release. Ten of the 51 parolees were re-incarcerated within six months after their release from prison. Family support, being married or having a partner, living with a family member, and being a parent were not associated with parole adjustment or with the likelihood of returning to prison. Variables associated with not being re-incarcerated were number of close relationships within their family network, the quality of the parent-child relationship, being employed, and having stable housing. Re-incarceration was associated with socializing with friends four or more times per week, the number of conflicted relationships in the family network, having family members who had been on probation or in jail, and the parolee’s perceived difficulty in staying off drugs. These findings suggest that the overall network of family relationships is important in helping to make the transition from prison to the community.

Keywords: adjustment to parole, family, parole, prison reentry, prison release, reentry, recidivism

Article code: FR0303_243-265

Joyce A. Arditti, Sara A. Smock, and Tiffaney S. Parkman

“It’s Been Hard to be a Father: A Qualitative Exploration of Incarcerated Fatherhood” (267-288)

Abstract: This study investigated the experiences of incarcerated fathers, their perceptions of fatherhood, and the nature of their involvement with their children. Fifty-one incarcerated fathers confined at two minimum security correctional facilities were interviewed approximately one month prior to their release from prison. A qualitative content analysis revealed detailed description pertaining to participants’ feelings of helplessness and the difficulties of being a “good father” while in prison. Incarceration represented a dormant period for men in terms of fatherhood, and reentry signified an opportunity to “start over” with their children. Finally, father involvement was profoundly constrained during incarceration and men were entirely dependent on nonincarcerated mothers or caregivers for contact with children. Many fathers perceived mothers’ gatekeeping, or efforts to prevent contact, as evidence of their powerlessness. Recommendations for future research and intervention are discussed.

Keywords: fatherhood, incarceration, co-parenting, maternal gatekeeping, father involvement

Article code: FR0303_267-288

Kevin M. Roy and Omari L. Dyson

“Gatekeeping in Context: Babymama Drama and the Involvement of Incarcerated Fathers” (289-310)

Abstract: In this study, we explore the process of negotiation between mothers and fathers to secure, to restrict, and to define men’s roles in their children’s lives. Field notes and life history interview data were collected with 40 incarcerated men in a work release program in a Midwestern metropolitan community. Partnering relationships were marked by confusion and conflict due to incarceration, deteriorating commitments, and stresses of low-income family life. Half of the participants described their children’s mothers’ efforts to discourage their involvement, while almost 75% noted instances of mothers’ encouragement of their involvement. We use Identity Theory to frame the transformation of father identities in response to correctional policies and negotiations with their children’s mothers. We conclude with implications for the study of the process of maternal gatekeeping and paternal involvement in correctional facilities.

Keywords: fathering, gatekeeping, incarceration, low-income families, identity theory

Article code: FR0303_289-310

Book Review

Fatherhood Arrested: Parenting from Within the Juvenile Justice System by Anne M. Nurse.

Reviewed by Brad Tripp

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