Incarceration and the Family: A Review of Research and Promising Approaches for Serving Fathers and Families. 6.1.2 Interference from Mothers and Other Family Members

09/01/2008

Fathers cite their relationships with their children’s mothers as a primary determinant of their relationships with their children.

A second type of barrier to reestablishing the father-child relationship at release involves interference from the child’s mother or other family members. In a study of 258 paroled fathers, 23% of respondents cited their relationships with their children’s mothers as a primary determinant of their relationships with their children. Qualitative research with a subset of 20 fathers indicated that mothers controlled and regulated fathers’ access to the children, and fathers tended to view their relationships with their children and the children’s mothers as being intertwined (Nurse, 2004). If interparental relationships are strained, fathers often have little or no contact with their children while they are in prison and have difficulty reestablishing their relationships with their children after release (Festen et al., 2002; Hairston, 2001; Nurse, 2004). Mothers often enlist the assistance of their extended family in caring for their children while the father is in prison. These family members may have negative perceptions of the father and may disapprove of his involvement with the children. As a result, qualitative interviews with fathers suggest that fathers’ relationships with mothers’ family members also dictate whether fathers are able to see and spend time with their children after they are released (Nurse, 2004).

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