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


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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