Incarceration and the Family: A Review of Research and Promising Approaches for Serving Fathers and Families. 6.1.4 Quality of Relationship during Incarceration


One of the most important predictors of father-child relationships upon reentry is the quality of these relationships while fathers are incarcerated (Festen et al., 2002). Many studies of incarcerated fathers (e.g., Hairston, 2001) have documented the dearth of contact that they have with their children while they are in prison. The multitude of barriers to visitation and contact make maintaining father-child relationships difficult. Descriptive studies of prison policies suggest that fathers are usually unable to have unsupervised conversations with their children and many times are not able to have physical contact with them (Bauer et al., 2007; Carlson & Cervera, 1992; Hairston, 1998). Nonetheless, there is some indication that fathers who have more contact with their children while incarcerated  may be  more successful in rebuilding their relationships with their children upon reentry (Hairston & Oliver, 2006; Festen et al., 2002). Researchers theorize that maintaining parenting roles during incarceration helps fathers transition back into such roles upon release (Adalist-Estrin, 1994).

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