Incarceration and the Family: A Review of Research and Promising Approaches for Serving Fathers and Families. 6.5 Positive Parenting Relations and Criminal Desistance

09/01/2008

Fathers clearly face many challenges to reestablishing their relationships with their children upon release from prison. In turn, the quality of these relationships may affect their reentry success. Unfortunately, most studies that have found associations between family closeness and support and reduced criminal involvement have focused on the family network in general and on fathers’ intimate partner relationships and relationships with their own parents in particular (e.g., Bahr et al., 2005; Bobbitt & Nelson, 2004; Visher & Courtney, 2007; Visher & Travis, 2003). Nonetheless, the study of returning prisoners in Cleveland found that fathers’ attachment to children was negatively related to fathers’ substance use one year after release; their attachment was not related to employment, re-arrest, or reincarceration (Visher & Courtney, 2007). This study also found that before release, 46% of fathers cited spending time with children as a factor that would be important to staying out of prison; after release, about 10% cited seeing their children as an inhibitor of returning to prison (Visher & Courtney, 2007).

Fathers who had contact with their children while in prison, and those who had better relationships with their children upon release, were less likely to return to prison.

Qualitative interviews with 20 former prisoners who had since desisted from crime also support the importance of fathers’ relationships with their children as a protective factor (Hughes, 1998). Bahr and colleagues’ (2005) small study of parolees found that fathers who had contact with their children while in prison, and those who had better relationships with their children upon release, were less likely to return to prison. Additionally, a study of 302 incarcerated fathers found that those who have more positive perceptions of their relationships with their children tend to report better psychological well-being (Lanier, 1993).  Fathers who had contact with their children while in prison, and those who had better relationships with their children upon release, were less likely to return to prison. These findings are consistent with social support and primary relationship frameworks, which suggest that social support from family members and involvement in important family roles limit deviant tendencies and promote mental health (Hairston, 1988; Jeffries et al., 2001; Visher & Travis, 2003).

View full report

Preview
Download

"report.pdf" (pdf, 1.96Mb)

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®