University of Limerick
Bradshaw_2019_Parental.pdf (1.35 MB)

Parental imprisonment in a changing Irish prison system

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posted on 2022-10-13, 09:31 authored by Daragh BradshawDaragh Bradshaw
Parental incarceration is demonstrated to have a negative impact not only on the incarcerated parent but also their partners and families as well. Meaningful contact between the incarcerated parent and their family is shown to reduce negative impact. Consequently, there has been a rise in interventions aimed at facilitating meaningful connection as well as supporting those involved. However, reforms that do not address the needs of those involved are destined to fail. Very little research has been conducted in an Irish setting and so we know very little about the needs of the population or for that matter how they can be supported. The purpose of this thesis is to address this gap by exploring the experiences of families affected by parental incarceration in a changing Irish prison system. Recognising the importance of meaningful family connection, many jurisdictions are providing family friendly supports in order to emphasise father over prisoner identity. However, father identity can be seen as problematic for incarcerated men, so we examine if, and how these men maintain a father identity. Paper one used semi-structured interviews with 15 incarcerated fathers to examine the construction of fatherhood in incarcerated men with children. While prison contexts influences self-categorisation by regulating enactment of parenting behaviour, the assumed nature of fatherhood legitimises the accessibility of this identity construct. Identification appears to be facilitated through a comparative process that maximises the fit between learning as a consequence of negative life trajectories and the needs and advice their children will require into the future Research exploring the association between parental incarceration (PI) and negative developmental outcomes for children affected often reports conflicting results. Authors using comparative cross-national analysis across Europe argue that the effects of PI are not universal but may differ across socio-political contexts. To examine the association of PI on developmental outcomes for children in an Irish context, Paper two used data from two waves of a population representative cohort study of children aged 9 years and followed up aged 13 years living in the Republic of Ireland. Children who had experienced PI came from more socially disadvantaged homes and were more likely to have experienced other stressful life events (SLE’s). After accounting for socio demographics and other SLE’s, results indicate that there were no medium term differences in children’s self-concept. However, PI did have a medium-term association with care-giver assessments of emotional and behavioural problems. In an effort to combat the social isolation and stigma associated with the incarceration of a family member increasingly efforts are made to support families affected by imprisonment. Many of these supports are delivered in group formats. Participation in support groups accrue benefits, sometimes referred to as the social cure, by enhancing a sense of belonging, social connection and subjective identification with the group. Where an identity is stigmatised, subjective group identification may be resisted with the knock on potential to undermine the effectiveness of group-based support. Paper three used semi-structured interviews with 12 partners of incarcerated men participating in a group based support, to explore their identity constructions as well as their perceptions of the value of the support group. Where an identity is stigmatised, subjective group identification may be resisted with the knock-on potential to undermine the effectiveness of group-based support. Findings emphasise the importance of shared experiences as a basis for connection with others where subjective identification with an identity is problematic. Taken together this thesis increases our understanding of the experiences of those affected by parental incarceration, as well as our understanding of identity construction in the context of stigmatising or potentially contested identities. In doing, so this thesis addresses can inform Irish Prison Service policy by facilitating the development and maintenance of family connection and a greater understanding of the association of PI and implications for families involved.



  • Doctoral

First supervisor

Muldoon, Orla T.

Second supervisor

Creaven, Ann-Marie





Department or School

  • Psychology

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