Incarceration and the Family: A Review of Research and Promising Approaches for Serving Fathers and Families. 5.2 Reestablishing Roles

09/01/2008

Very little research is available to reliably document the process of reintegrating into the marital/partner relationship at reentry. What we do know about this process comes from small qualitative studies of men who were imprisoned and released and their partners (Fishman, 1990; Hairston & Oliver, 2006). Thematic summaries from these qualitative interviews and focus groups suggest that reintegration often starts with a “honeymoon period,” where the couple gets reacquainted. Many women feel optimistic that their partner will fulfill the promises he made while in prison with regards to stopping his criminal behavior. However, numerous conflicts may arise as the couple attempts to reorganize their lives and reestablish their roles within both the relationship and the household (Fishman, 1990).

Recreating a sustainable family process that acknowledges the inevitable changes that take place during the period of imprisonment is one of the most challenging tasks that prisoners and their partners face upon release.

One issue identified in the available research involves power struggles and renegotiation of roles. Ex-inmates who have been forced into dependency during their imprisonment may seek to assert their own power and control within their family upon return. However, women who gained independence and self-sufficiency during the time on their own may desire more egalitarian roles and struggle with their partner for control (Travis, McBride, & Solomon, 2005). On the other hand, men and women who desire traditional roles in their partnership may feel thwarted if the man has difficulties finding employment and establishing himself as the financial breadwinner (Fishman, 1990). Recreating a sustainable family process that acknowledges the inevitable changes that take place during the period of imprisonment is one of the most challenging tasks that prisoners and their partners face upon release.

 

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