Incarceration and the Family: A Review of Research and Promising Approaches for Serving Fathers and Families. 6.1.5 Unrealistic Expectations

09/01/2008

Research with prisoners awaiting release has found that fathers tend to have unrealistic expectations of their relationships with their children (Day et al., 2005; Schmitzer, 1999). A survey of 51 incarcerated fathers found that although more than half felt that they had close relationships with their children, 41% indicated that they never or rarely discussed their child’s life with their partner and almost two-thirds reported never having received a visit from their child (Day et al., 2005). Additionally, a pilot study of 324 reentering prisoners in the Maryland Returning Home study revealed that fathers’ expectations for renewing relationships with their children were met or exceeded after release: Whereas 79% of respondents thought before release that it would be “pretty easy” or “very easy” to renew relationships with their children, 94% of respondents indicated after release that this had been the case. In contrast, although more than two-thirds of respondents expected to see their children daily, just over half actually did have daily contact with their children 4 to 6 months after release (Naser & Farrell, 2004). Qualitative data suggest that incarcerated fathers may idealize their relationships with their children and fantasize about activities they will do together when they are released (Adalist-Estrin, 1994; Nurse, 2004). The realities faced once fathers are released can be difficult to cope with.

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