The Effect of Mother Incarceration on Teens

The Effect of Mother Incarceration on Teens
Introduction:
Female incarceration is currently a main challenge given the crucial
role played by women in parenting. Women spend more time with their
children than men, which give them an opportunity to shape the future
behavior of their children. To this end maternal incarceration has
caused conflicting ideas from the stakeholders in the criminal judicial
system and social welfare. This is because of the large proportion of
the incarcerated mothers. For example, the proportion of mothers among
the incarcerated female in the United Kingdom was 61 % in 1997 (Byrne &
Stanley, 2012). Moreover, the study revealed that the majority of the
incarcerated mothers (71 %) were the primary caretakers of their
children before incarceration. Maternal incarceration results in instant
separation of the mother from their children. Different researcher has
made efforts to identify the key effects of this physical separation
between mothers and their children as a result of incarceration. The key
effects are considered as the dependent variables in the current
research and include the following psychological effects (depression,
withdrawal, somatic complaints, and suicide ideation), low grades,
school drop-out, use of drugs, alcoholism, sexual intimacy, and
stereotyping. Maternal incarceration is the primary variable for the
current research.
The purpose of this research is to identify the association between
maternal incarceration and the dependent variables, which are the
effects of maternal incarceration on teens. The physical separation
between the incarcerated mothers and their children has been identified
in the literature review as the main cause of suffering among these
children. This is a clear indication of maternal role in parenting. In
addition, the review of literature shows that most of the effects are
psychological or result from psychological depression. The current
research will help in identifying the risk factors of maternal
incarceration on their teens. This information will help the policy
makers and stakeholders in the social welfare, juvenile judicial system,
adult’s judicial system, and the Children Department in formulating
policies that reduce the negative impacts of maternal incarceration on
teens. This helps in reduction of crimes caused by the children of
incarcerated mothers and improve their well being.
Background
The rate of maternal incarceration has been increasing with time with
most of the incarceration resulting from drug use and drug trafficking.
However, the most significant aspect of the maternal incarceration of
the current research is the detrimental impact of the act on the teens.
Lia (2009) defined incarceration as confinement in a federal, state, or
local jail. This implies that the physical interaction between the
incarcerated individual and their relatives is terminated. This subjects
the children of these mothers to risk factors where some of them result
from psychological shock. There are several theories that can be used to
explain the effects of maternal incarceration on their teens. However,
the ecological theoretical perspective can be used to better explain the
impact of maternal incarceration on their children (Lia, 2009). This
theory emphasizes on the significance of the mother – child relationship
in determining the child’s emotional development. This is because the
mother has the capacity to express emotions and responsive ties with
their children. Consequently, children who are separated from their
mothers have poor capacity to institute healthy relationship with, and
this result in negative outcomes later in life. In addition, the
perspective holds that the close relationship between children and their
family members (including parents) help in establishing the connection
between a child’s development and culture, which gives positive
outcome.
Description of the review process
The systemic review of the effects of mothers’ incarceration
literature was conducted to identify the published scholarly and
research works that examined the impacts of incarceration to their
children. The current research paper described the results from the
qualitative and quantitative database studies. The research included all
categories of challenges that teens of incarcerated mothers go through
ranging from financial, health, and psychological among others. Keyword
search was the main approach used to search for the articles used in the
current study from reliable databases including the NCBI and PsychINFO.
Some of the key terms used include the “incarcerated mothers”,
“risk factors of female incarceration”, “effects of mothers’
incarceration on children”, “children of incarcerated women”, and
“maternal incarceration”. However, articles that emphasized on the
paternal incarceration and the effects of incarceration on mothers
instead of their children were excluded from the current study.
Description of articles in review
Ehrensaft, Wamseley, Khashu, Ross, & Kyriakakis (2000) analyzed the
administrative data of 13,920 children of incarcerated mothers and 7,657
incarcerated mothers. T-test and Chi-square were used in the
determination of association between maternal incarceration and
substance abuse and drug trafficking. The results of the study
indicated that children of the incarcerated mothers were subjected to
the risk of drug trafficking and substance abuse. Greene, Haney, &
Hurtado, (2000) interviewed 102 incarcerated mothers in California.
Researchers found that maternal incarceration resulted in social
depression, withdrawal, and troubled attachment. In a similar study,
Amlund & Barbara (2003) sampled 116 children of incarcerated mothers.
Researchers reduced bias by using random sampling technique. The data
was tested for reliability using Cronbach’s alpha. Researchers
identified that maternal incarceration resulted in psychological effects
such as somatic complaints, withdrawal, and depression. Poehlmann (2003)
interviewed 60 incarcerated mothers from Wisconsin families. The
research identified the association between maternal incarceration and
multiple variables including psychological effects, engagement in crime
activities, and poor economic conditions among the teens of the
incarcerated mothers. The study identified that maternal incarceration
resulted in psychological effects, exposure to criminogenic environment,
and poor economic conditions. Cunningham & Baker (2004) interviewed 90
children of incarcerated mothers from provincial correctional systems in
the United States. The research established the association between
maternal incarceration and three variables including psychological
effects, rationalization, and stigmatization. Researchers identified
that maternal incarceration leads to psychological effects, exposure to
poor economic conditions, and stigmatization of children of the
incarcerated mothers. Hannon (2006) interviewed 20 incarcerated mothers
and used bivariate analysis to determine the association between
maternal incarceration and psychological effects. The study established
association between maternal incarceration and psychological effects
such as depression and somatic complaints. Levy-Ponds (2006) conducted a
multivariate analysis to determine the relationship between maternal
incarceration and psychological effects and exposure to poor economic
conditions. The research established the association between maternal
incarceration and psychological impacts and exposure to poor economic
conditions. Treadway (2008) interviewed 11 children of incarcerated
mothers. The study associated maternal incarceration with multiple
variables including psychological effects and exposure to criminogenic
environment. Researcher identified that maternal incarceration resulted
in psychological effects and exposure to crminogenic environment among
the teens of the incarcerated mothers. Sharp (2008) interviewed 297
incarcerated women in Oklahoma. Researcher used Cronbach’s alpha to
determine the reliability of the data. The study identified that
maternal incarceration results in engagement in crime activities such as
substance abuse among the teens of the incarcerated mothers. Lia (2009)
used convenient sampling to recruit 9 incarcerated mothers in a study
that associated maternal incarceration with multiple variables including
psychological effects and stigmatization. Maternal incarceration results
in the psychological effects (including withdrawal, depression, and
troubled attachment) and stigmatization among children of the
incarcerated mothers. Meyerson, Otteson, & Lynn (2010) used
semi-structured questionnaires as tools of data collection to
investigate the effects of maternal incarceration from incarcerated
women in LUH pilot site. The bivariate analysis established the
association between maternal incarceration and psychological effects on
teens of the incarcerated mothers. Luke (2012) conducted a multivariate
analysis to assess the association between maternal incarceration,
psychological effect and stigmatization of teens of the incarcerated
mothers. The data was collected from several incarcerated mothers in the
United States. The study identified that children of the incarcerated
mothers feel isolated by other members of the society. Hagan (2012)
interviewed 132 adolescents of incarcerated mothers. The data was
analyzed using regression, robust standard errors, and percentile to
determine the relationship between maternal incarceration and
psychological effects. Researcher identified that maternal
incarceration results in psychological effects (such as depression,
somatic complaints, and troubled attachment) and stigmatization. Turney
& Wildeman (2012) collected data on effects of maternal incarceration
from a sample of 5,000 women in 20 cities of the United States. The data
was analyzed using several techniques such as regression and Propensity
Score Matching Model. The study associated maternal incarceration with
psychological effects (depression, withdrawal, and somatic complaints)
and substance abuse. Smyth (2012) used administrative data to conduct an
empirical analysis. The research investigated the relationship between
maternal incarceration and psychological impact and stigmatization of
teens of the incarcerated mothers. The study sample in the
administrative data consisted of 2.4 million teens. The study identified
that maternal incarceration results in psychological effects (including
depression and troubled attachment) and stigmatization of children of
the incarcerated mothers. Easterling (2012) conducted a bivariate
analysis to establish the association between maternal incarceration and
stigmatization of teens of the incarcerated mothers. The study
established the association between maternal incarceration and
stigmatization of children of the incarcerated mothers. Byrne &Stanley
(2012) used administrative data to conduct a bivariate analysis for the
association between maternal incarceration and psychological impacts on
teens of the incarcerated mothers. Researcher identified that maternal
incarceration results in psychological effects (such as depression,
troubled attachment, and withdrawal) among children of the incarcerated
mothers. Flynn (2012) interviewed 15 incarcerated mothers to determine
the effects of incarceration on their teens. Bivariate analysis of the
data established the association between maternal incarceration and
psychological effects. In overall, 10 out of 18 articles applied
bivariate analysis to identify the association between two variables.
The study identified the association between maternal incarceration and
psychological effects such as withdrawal, anger, and behavioral
difficulties.
Table 1: Sample, method and analysis of the articles used in the current
study
Study Authors Sample Method Analysis
Ehrensaft, Wamseley, Khashu, Ross & Kyriakakis, 2000. Random sampling of
foster care, children, and mothers.
Foster care entries: n = 13,920, children: = 11,349, mothers: n = 7,657.
Administrative data Chi-square
Descriptive statistics (percentile)
t-test
Greene, Haney & Hurtado, 2000. Random sampling of incarcerated mothers
in 3 jails, in California.
Sample n= 102 Structured interview Descriptive statistics (percentile)
Amlund & Barbara, 2003. Random sampling of children of incarcerated
mothers
Sample size n = 116 In-person interviews Descriptive statics
(percentile)
Cronbach’s alpha
Poehlmann, 2003. Conducted on Wisconsin families
Sample size n = 60 In-person interviews Descriptive statics (Percentile)
Cunningham & Baker, 2004. Population of children of women in the
provincial correctional system n = 90 In-person interviews Descriptive
statics (percentile)
Hannon, 2006 Sample size n = 20 incarcerated mothers In-person
interview Descriptive statistics (percentile)
Levy-Ponds, 2006. The sample size was not specified, but the total
population was 200,000 of children of the incarcerated women in the
United States. Administrative data Descriptive statics (percentile)
Treadway, 2008. Data collected from 11 children of incarcerated mothers
In-depth interview Descriptive statics (percentile)
Sharp, 2008 Sample comprised of incarcerated women in Oklahoma
Sample size n = 297 In-person interviews Cronbach’s alpha
Descriptive statistics (mean and percentile)
Lia, 2009 Convenient selection of previously incarcerated mothers n = 9
Semi-structured interviews Descriptive statistics
Meyerson, Otteson, & Lynn, 2010 Sample collected from population of
incarcerated women from LUH pilot site.
Sample size n = 75 Structured questionnaires Descriptive statistics
(frequency and percentile)
Luke, 2012 Sample size was not given, but the study population was the
children of incarcerated mothers in US. Administrative data only
Descriptive statistics
Hagan, 2012 Sample size n = 132, collected from a population of
adolescents of incarcerated mothers from US schools. In-person
interviews
Administrative data Regression
Robust standard errors
Percentile
Turney & Wildeman, 2012. Sample size of n = 5,000 was obtained from a
study population of 200,000 new and unmarried mothers in 20 US cities.
In-person interview
Descriptive statistics (standard deviation, mean, and percentile)
Regression
Propensity Score Matching Models
Smyth, 2012 Sample size was not indicated, but study population composed
of 2.4 million. Administrative data Empirical analysis
Easterling, 2012. Sample size n = 97 In-person interview Descriptive
statistics
Byrne &Stanley, 2012. Sample size was not specified Administrative data
Descriptive statistics (percentile)
Flynn, 2012 Samples size of n = 15 was drawn from a population of 237
In-person interview Descriptive statistics (percentile)
Findings:
A total of 18 articles were reviewed in the current research. The
findings of the articles were classified into six main categories based
on the effects of maternal incarceration on children as addressed in
each of the articles. These categories include the psychological effects
of broken maternal relationship, exposure to criminogenic environment,
poor economic conditions, rationalization of mothers’ behavior, and
stereotyping. Most of the articles addressed more than one effect among
the five classifications. The studies within each of the five
classifications were considered by year. A total of 15 (83.33 %)
articles addressed the psychological effects of a broken relationship
between incarcerated mothers and their children, 5 (27.7 %) exposure to
criminogenic environment, 3 (16.67 %) poor economic environment, 1 (5.6
%) rationalization, 6 (33.3 %) stereotyping.
Table 2: Factors associated with maternal incarceration
Study Psychological effects Exposure to criminogenic environment Poor
economic conditions Rationalization of mother’s behavior
Stereotyping Findings
Ehrensaft, Wamseley, Khashu, Ross & Kyriakakis, 2000. – Children of
incarcerated mothers engage in substance abuse and drug trafficking. –
– – Associated maternal incarceration with substance abuse and drug
trafficking among their teens.
Greene, Haney & Hurtado, 2000.
Children of incarcerated mothers suffer from depression, social
withdrawal, and troubled attachment. Studied the criminogenic effects
of maternal incarceration on children. – – – -Positive association
between maternal incarceration depression, withdrawal, and troubled
attachment.
-Associated maternal incarceration with violence, sexual, and physical
abuse.
Amlund & Barbara, 2003. These children suffer from Depression,
withdrawal, and somatic complaints. – – – – Somatic complaints,
withdrawal, and depression affect children of incarcerated mothers.
Poehlmann, 2003. Established positive association between maternal
incarceration and troubled attachment. – These children are left in the
care of poor relatives. – – -Children of incarcerated mothers have a
problem of associating with other people.
– Most of these children are left in the hands of poor relatives.
Cunningham & Baker, 2004. These children suffer from social depression
and withdrawal. – – The teens blame judicial system for the
incarceration of their mothers. Associated maternal incarceration with
the feeling of isolation and stigmatization. -Associated maternal
incarceration with depression and withdrawal.
-Some children blame the judicial system for the incarceration of their
mothers.
– Some feel isolated and stigmatized.
Hannon, 2006 Maternal incarceration results in social depression,
somatic complaints, and troubled attachment. – – – – Associated
maternal incarceration with withdrawal, depression, and somatic
complaints.
Levy-Ponds, 2006. They suffer from troubled attachment. Studied the
association between maternal incarceration and teens’ conflict with
the criminal justice system. These children are left either in the
hands of poor relatives or poorly funded foster systems. – – -Teens of
incarcerated mothers have trouble establishing attachment with other
people.
-Children of incarcerated mothers have regular conflict with juvenile
and adults’ criminal judicial system.
-These children are left either in the hands of poor family members or
poorly funded foster systems.
Treadway, 2008. These children suffer from Depression, withdrawal,
somatic complaints, and troubled attachment. The children engage in
substance abuse, drug trafficking, and gang activities. – – Studied
the effect of maternal incarceration on the children of incarcerated
mothers. -Negative effects of maternal incarceration include
depression, somatic complaints, withdrawal, and difficulty of
attachment.
-The teens engage in substance abuse, drug trafficking, and gang related
activities.
-These children suffer from social stigma.
Sharp, 2008 These children suffer from withdrawal, and troubled
attachment. Associated maternal incarceration with substance abuse. –
– – -Associated maternal incarceration with withdrawal, troubled
attachment, and depression.
Associated maternal incarceration with substance abuse among the teens
of incarcerated mothers.
Lia, 2009 – – – – Teens of incarcerated mothers feel stigmatized. –
Some of these children feel stigmatized.
Meyerson, Otteson, & Lynn, 2010 Associated maternal incarceration with
social depression and troubled attachment. – – – – Children of
incarcerated mothers suffer from depression and difficulty of attaching
with other people.
Luke, 2012 Associated maternal incarceration with social depression and
troubled attachment. – – – The teens feel isolated. -Some children of
incarcerated mothers feel isolated.
-Children of incarcerated mothers suffer from depression and difficulty
of attaching with other people.
Hagan, 2012 Maternal incarceration results in social depression,
withdrawal, and troubled attachment. – Studied the effect poor economic
conditions of children of the incarcerated mothers on educational
performance. – Associated maternal incarceration and a feeling of
isolation. -Depression, somatic complaints, and troubled attachment
affect the children of incarcerated mothers.
-Some children feel isolated.
-Associated poor economic conditions with decline in academic
performance among the teens of the incarcerated mothers.
Turney & Wildeman, 2012. These children suffer from social depression,
withdrawal, and somatic complaint.
– – – -Associated maternal incarceration with depression, withdrawal,
and somatic complaints.
Smyth, 2012 Associated maternal incarceration with social depression and
troubled attachment. – – – Teens feel stigmatized -Children of
incarcerated mothers often become depressed and difficulty of attachment
with other people.
-Some children feel stigmatized.
Easterling, 2012. Maternal incarceration results in social depression,
withdrawal, and troubled attachment. – – – – -Associated maternal
incarceration with social depression, withdrawal, and troubled
attachment.
Byrne &Stanley, 2012. Associated maternal incarceration with social
depression, withdrawal, and troubled attachment. – – – – Children of
incarcerated mothers suffer from depression, withdrawal, and troubled
attachment.
Flynn, 2012 Associated maternal incarceration with withdrawal, anger,
isolation, and behavioral difficulties. – – – – Associated maternal
incarceration with withdrawal, anger, isolation, and behavioral
difficulties.
Psychological effects of broken maternal relationship
Research by Greene, Haney & Hurtado (2000) identified that 71 % of the
incarcerated women and their children found the jailing an emotionally
painful stressor. These Researchers conducted a structured interview of
102 women from California. They also identified that 69 %, 44 %, and 9 %
of the children of the incarcerated mother faced violence, physical
abuse, and sexual abuse respectively. The harsh environment subjected
the children to adaptive patterns that would result in their engagement
in similar crimes as their mothers. Amlund & Barbara (2003) conducted
an in-person interview of 116 children of incarcerated mothers who were
randomly sampled in the United States. The research identified that 50 %
of the children of incarcerated mothers experience stressing events
following separation. The researcher establish a positive association
between maternal incarceration and stressful conditions (including
depression, withdrawal, and somatic complaints) with r = 0.33, p < 0.01.
Poehlmann (2003) interviewed 60 children of incarcerated mothers from
Wisconsin families. The study established that 60-70 % of the children
of the incarcerated mothers developed the problem of attachment. The
children of the incarcerated mothers often feel abandoned and ashamed of
their mothers. This was suggested in Cunningham & Baker (2004) followed
an interview of 90 children of incarcerated mothers from different
correctional centers in Canada. This category of adolescents distances
themselves from their mothers emotionally. Hannon (2006) interviewed 20
incarcerated mothers and identified that their children suffered from
social depression, somatic complaints, and troubled attachment. This
resulted in poor academic performance as indicated by large, negative,
and statistically significant coefficient of student level impact of
maternal incarceration. Children of the incarcerated mothers are often
placed in the broken foster care systems, which subject them to trauma
after being separated from their mothers. This results in stress,
anxiety, feeling of sadness, and emotional anxiety. Consequently, they
engage in the use of drugs, alcoholism, and sexual intimacy as a means
of coping with the stressing situations (Levy-Ponds, 2006). In addition,
most of the women incarcerated in the United States are relocated to
different federal prisons, thus reducing the capacity of their children
to visit them in the prisons. The study established that 54 % of the
incarcerated women were never visited by their children during the
period of incarceration.
During an interview of 5 incarcerated women, Treadway (2008) identified
several social and psychological difficulties faced by the children of
the incarcerated mothers. The women who were recruited in the study were
requested to describe the conduct of their children during the time of
incarceration. Some predictors of social problems include withdrawal
from social activities with friends, sleepovers with friends. In
additional, about 70 % of these children experience emotional
difficulties, which are characterized by depression, suicide ideation,
somatic complaints, and withdrawal. The research further identified
that these children exhibit behavioral difficulties such as
externalizing and internalizing behaviors. These may be exhibited by
frequent fight with other children, refusing to comply with teachers,
and eating disorders.
Educational difficulties are some of the frequently reported challenges
among the children of incarcerated mothers. Treadway (2008) and
Levy-Ponds (2006) identified that experienced some drop in grades, lack
of concentration in class, and lack of motivation. Levy-Ponds (2006)
used administrative data of 200,000 children of incarcerated mothers in
the United States to study the impact of maternal incarceration on their
well-being. Moreover, the studies identified an increase in the rate of
dropouts among these children compared to the general population. Some
of the interviewed respondents reported that their children turned
unresponsive and resilient about educational challenges they faced.
However, some children of incarcerated mothers performed well
academically, and this was attributed to supportive caretaking and
parental contacts during incarceration. Sharp (2008) interviewed 208
incarcerated women in Oklahoma to investigate the effect of
incarceration on their children. The researcher identified that
depression (18.8 %), low grades (12 %), and frequent conflicts with
guardians (3.3 %) were the significant challenges facing the children of
the incarcerated mothers. Meyerson, Otteson, & Lynn (2010) used
structured questionnaires to collect data on the impacts of maternal
incarceration on the children of 75 incarcerated mothers. The study
identified that these children suffered from social depression, and
difficulty of associating with other people. Luke (2012) analyzed the
administrative data of children of the incarcerated mothers in the
United States to compare the impact of maternal and paternal
incarceration on adolescents. Researcher identified that the
psychological effects of maternal incarceration were observed in the
children of incarcerated mothers more often than paternal incarceration.
This is because children spend more time with their mothers before
incarceration than with their fathers. In addition, the impact of
mothers’ incarceration on children is more because they rarely live
with their fathers after maternal incarceration. Hagan (2012)
interviewed 132 adolescents of the incarcerated mothers from different
schools in the United States to assess the effects of imprisonment
spillover on the rate of graduation. The researcher identified that the
maternal incarceration results in a graduation drop to 30 % for children
whose mothers were not incarcerated compared to 6 % among children whose
mothers had been incarcerated. The findings of this research were
inconsistent with the findings of other research work. Turney & Wildeman
(2012) interviewed 5,000 married and unmarried mothers to identify the
psychological effects of their incarceration on their children. Social
depression, withdrawal, and somatic complaints are some of the key
impacts that were associated with maternal incarceration. Statistical
analysis established a positive association between maternal
incarceration and social problems (- 0.018, p < 0.01) externalizing
problems (-0.014, p < 0.01) and aggressive behavior (- 0.015, p < 0.01).
Smyth (2012) analyzed the administrative data of 2.4 million children of
incarcerated mothers and identified that most of the children of the
incarcerated mothers suffered from social depression and difficulty of
establishing sustainable relationship with other people. In a personal
interview of 97 incarcerated mothers Easterling (2012) identified that
these children are at risk of social depression and withdrawal. Byrne
&Stanley (2012) analyzed the administrative data of about the impacts of
maternal incarceration on their children and identified that these
children suffered from social depression, withdrawal, and difficulty of
associating with other people. Flynn (20120 interviewed 15 incarcerated
mothers and identified that all their children suffered from
psychological effects such as withdrawal, anger, isolation, and
behavioral difficulties as a result of mother-child separation.
Exposure to criminogenic environment
Ehrensaft et al (2000) identified that children of the incarcerated
mothers are at high risk of engaging in substance abuse and drug
trafficking. Greene, Haney, & Hurtado (2000) suggested that most of the
incarcerated women had been exposed to criminogenic conditions in the
early stages of their lives. The research identified that exposure to
violence (69 %), physical abuse (44 %), and sexual abuse (9 %) during
their mother`s incarceration increased the opportunity for the children
to end-up in prison for similar crimes as their mothers. The emotional
distress and traumatic conditions faced by children of incarcerated
children face subject them to the juvenile justice system as well as the
adult criminal justice system (Levy-Ponds, 2006). This is because
children of the incarcerated mothers often use unconventional mechanisms
to handle the pains they undergo following their separation from family
members. Some of the coping mechanisms that resulting conflict between
children of incarcerated mothers and the judicial system include drug
use, drug trafficking, violence, delinquency, and gang related
activities. Moreover, the research established that these children have
inadequate access to counsel because they lack maternal support.
Children of the incarcerated mothers and have attained the age of 13
years often associate with high risk groups peers, which indulge them
into criminal activities (Treadway, 2008). This is a common phenomenon
among the children of incarcerated mothers who experience frequent
separation from their mothers. Enduring trauma, aggression, hostility
towards caregivers, stealing and lying occurs when the children of the
incarnated mothers experience repeated separation. Children who
experience the ill effects of maternal incarceration engage in criminal
activities and substance abuse. While investigating the effects of
maternal incarceration on children, Sharp (2008) identified that these
children are often left in the hands of people with criminal records of
behavior that may lead them into crime. Researcher identified that 13.8
% of people taking care of these children were perpetrators of physical
abuse, and 5.8 % sex abusers. Some of these children lived in
unfavorable environments that subjected them to the risk of being abused
of learning to be abusive themselves. The high risk caretakers include
relatives of the incarcerated mothers and other individuals given the
responsibility of taking care of these children.
Poor economic conditions
Poehlmann (2003) conducted a research to examine different factors
affecting the children during the incarceration of their mothers. The
research identified 40 % of the children of the incarcerated mothers
lived with unemployed, poor, and unhealthy dependents. The poor economic
and unhealthy environment was explained the intelligence score below
average for 10 % of the children. According to Levy-Ponds (2006) 2/3 of
the incarcerated women in the United States are mothers. Most of these
children come from the poor African American families characterized by
overwhelming poverty. To this end, the relatives of the incarcerated
mothers overstretch their finances to support the left children.
Moreover, the research identified that the little foster subsidies are
insufficient. These families fall into deeper poverty and
marginalization. Although most studies associated poor academic
performance among the children of incarcerated mothers with
psychological effects, Hagan (2012) suggested that the reduced
educational and economic resources are the main causes of declining
performance among these children.
Rationalization of mothers’ behavior
Cunningham & Baker (2004) studied the effects of women`s incarceration
on their children. The research identified that 50 % of the children of
the incarcerated mothers rationalize the behavior of their mothers.
These children normalize their mothers’ behavior in a distorted manner
by claiming that what their mothers did was not wrong. They end-up
blaming the criminal judicial system and other factors such as drugs,
stress, and survival.
Stereotyping
According to Cunningham & Baker (2004) 50 % of the children of the
incarcerated mothers feel isolated and stigmatized as the children of
inmate upon the discovery of their status by the members of the public.
These children develop the coping strategies such as alcohol and drug
use using ager to suppress other emotions, thrill seeking and seeking
sexual intimacy. They find it difficult to stay at school and end-up
dropping out. Treadway (2008) interviewed incarcerated women who had
been incarcerated at one point in time to identify the assessment of
their children during incarceration. This study identified that
children of incarcerated mothers experienced social stigma from their
peers, family members, and some teachers. The poor peer relationship
resulted from the mothers’ incarceration, public perception, and
separation. The traumatic effect of maternal incarceration on their
children results from the feelings of social stigma and shame. Lia
(2009) used semi-structured interview to study stereotyping of children
of the incarcerated mothers. The study was conducted on 9 incarcerated
mothers and identified that these children suffer from social stigma. A
similar study conducted by Luke (2012) identified that children of
incarcerated mothers feel isolated by their relatives and other
children. Hagan (2012) interviewed 132 adolescents of the incarcerated
mothers. The study identified that these children have a feeling of
isolation following the incarceration of their mothers. Smyth (2012)
suggested that the social stigma that resulted from maternal
incarceration elevated risk of insecure attachment, which led to a
series of negative outcomes throughout the life of the affected child.
The study was conducted on a total population of 2.4 million children of
the incarcerated mothers. This may result from the child’s sense of
self, which results in long-term emotional hardships. In addition, about
75 % of the children who experience the removal of the primary caregiver
have difficulties associating with other people.
Conclusion:
Exposure to multiple life stressors results in behavioral change among
children of the incarcerated mothers. Amlund & Barbara (2003) concluded
that the susceptibility to behavioral change is proportional to the
number of life stressor that facing the child. The most common stressful
events are expressed in the forms of withdrawal, somatic complaints, and
depression. However, the magnitude of expression of life stressors
depends on the social support provided to these children. Children’s
level of secrecy does not differ significantly with their internalizing
and externalizing problems if they are given sufficient social support.
In a similar study, Treadway (2008) concluded that the penal system of
the United States separates the children from their incarcerated
mothers, thus disrupting the mother-child bond. Researcher concluded
that the broken or weakened bond between these children and their
mothers were responsible for the social, emotional, educational
difficulties, and behavioral change.
Amlund & Barbara (2003) recommended a further research that will explore
whether the effects of secrecy are similar for secrets that are
qualitatively different. This is because the results contradicted the
previous findings, which associated the information that is kept secret
with unhealthy outcomes where the study participants felt ashamed and
responsible. The poorly supported children of the incarcerated mothers
perceived risk of talking about the secret. They also felt no
responsible for the incarceration of their mothers. According to
Treadway (2008) a further research will be necessary to investigate the
possibility of applying modern technology in maintaining the connection
between the incarcerated mothers and their children. Some of the
potential technological means of mother-child relationship include the
use of a webcam to facilitate the physical contact. Alternatively, Lia
(2009) recommended the creation of child friendly centers and privacy,
which will facilitate frequent visitations.
Poehlmann (2003) concluded that maternal incarcerated increased risk of
a cycle of criminal behavior if the society fails to take care of
children of the incarcerated mothers. This was evidenced by the fact
that most of the incarcerated women had other incarcerated relatives.
The separation between mother and their children after incarceration
increases the chance for the children to engage in delinquent acts
including the engagement in drug use and involvement in crime groups
(Treadway, 2008). This results from limited follow up made by the
stakeholders (including children`s agencies, police, prisons, and the
courts) to monitor the life of these children after incarceration. Smyth
(2012) suggested that maternal incarceration is a double punishment,
which affects both the incarcerated mothers (by denying their parental
rights) and their children. In addition, the study established that the
current operations of the judicial system and child welfare subjects
these children to risks of relating with criminal groups, traumatic
stress, suicidal ideation, anxiety, and depression. The study
recommended the reduced reliance on prisons and a shift into
community-based programs, which can successfully reduce the damaging
effect of maternal incarceration.
The caregivers and other stakeholders who are given the responsibility
of supporting children of the incarcerated mothers have the major role
of determining the engagement of these children in criminal activities.
To this end Flynn (2012) recommended a future study to investigate the
knowledge of the teachers, school administrators, school counselors, and
psychologists about the needs of these children. This will be
significant in bridging the knowledge gap and equipping the individuals
supporting these children with necessary skills for addressing their
needs. In addition, Meyerson, Otteson & Lynn (2010) recommended the
creation of programs that will facilitate improved communication among
the family members after maternal incarceration. This is the most
effective measure that can help in the development of realistic
processes of the reentry process.
Parenting program is an effective tool that can be used to shape the
behavioral outcome of children of the incarcerated mothers. Luke (2012)
concluded that the potential benefits of the parenting programs were far
reaching. Researcher emphasized on the positive relationship between
women and their children as the key shield against the negative outcomes
experienced in the lives of these children after incarceration. Although
the research documented useful information to the policy makers,
researcher recommended a further research to evaluate the effectiveness
of the parenting programs among the children of incarcerated mothers in
protecting them from negative behavior.
The key areas that require reforms include the patriarchy, crime, and
justice with respect to contemporary equality. To end, Hagan (2012)
recommended a reexamination of the criminal law with regard to the legal
perspective of gender equality. The criminal judicial system neglected
the gender specific rights of imprisoned women and the interconnection
between observation of the rights of the incarcerated women and their
children with regard to the parental care, and protection. This implies
that the formal equality creates substantive inequality for the
incarcerated mothers and their children. This was consistent with the
conclusion made by Byrne & Stanley (2012) who recommended policy reforms
that will focus on suitable interventions that occur before
incarceration, in addition to addressing the effects, of incarceration.
This will help in enhancing the wellbeing of children by diminishing
social inequalities. Hannon (2006) captured some significant aspects of
maternal incarceration that were rarely addressed in the previous
research. Researcher identified that maternal incarceration has
negative, positive, and null consequences on children of the
incarcerated mothers. However, the limited scope of the study could not
allow the detailed investigation of these aspects, which was recommended
for future research.
The research works reviewed in the current study failed to establish a
relationship between maternal incarceration and maternal criminal
history as well as foster care outcomes. Therefore, the next step in
this field of research is to assess the relationship between specific
length and frequency of maternal incarceration on teens. This will also
include the analysis of the effectiveness of foster care among the
children of incarcerated mothers during the time of maternal
incarceration. Data from the Department of Probation and department of
Juvenile Justice are some reliable sources of data for the recommended
study.
References
Amlund, M. & Barbara, J. (2003). The effect of secrecy and behavioral
problems in children of women. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 12
(2), 230-241.
Byrne, S. & Stanley, S. (2012). Mothers in prison: Coping with
separation from children. Adelaide: University of South Australia.
Cunningham, A. & Baker, L. (2004). Invisible victims: The children of
women in prison. London: Center for Children. & Family in the Justice
System.
Easterling, A. (2012). Parenting behind bars: A qualitative study of
incarcerated mothers. Knoxville: University of Tennessee.
Ehrensaft, M., Wamseley, M., Khashu, A., Ross, T., & Kyriakakis, S.
(2000). Arrest and incarceration among mothers of foster children. New
York: Vera Institute of Justice.
Flynn, C. (2012). Responding to the children of women in prison: Making
the invisible visible. Family Relationships Quarterly, 9, 1-3.
Greene, S., Haney, G. & Hurtado, A. (2000). Cycles of pain: Risk factors
in the lives of incarcerated mothers and their children. The Prison
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Hagan, J. (2012). Children of the American prison generation: Students
and school spillover effects of incarcerating mothers. Law & Society
Review, 46 (1), 48-65.
Hannon, T. (2006). Hildren: Unintended victims of legal process.
Melbourne: VACRO.
Luke, P. (2012). Mitigating the III effects of maternal incarceration on
women in prison and their children. Washington DC: Child Welfare League
of America.
Levy-Ponds, N. (2006). Children of incarcerated mothers and the struggle
for stability. The Modern American, 14-17.
Lia, M. (2009). Maternal incarceration: Exploring the impact on
children. The Thesis and Dissertations, 557, 1-50.
Meyerson, J., Otteson, C. & Lynn, K. (2010). Childhood disrupted:
Understanding the features and effects of maternal incarceration. Saint
Paul: Wilder Research.
Poehlmann, J. (2003). New study has shown that children of incarcerated
mothers experience multiple challenges. Family Matters, 3 (2), 1-2.
Sharp, S. (2008). Study of incarcerated women and their children.
Oklahoma: Oklahoma Commission on Children & Youth.
Smyth, J. (2012). Dual punishment: Incarcerated mothers and their
children. Columbia Social Work Review, 3, 33-42.
Treadway, R. (2008). Collateral damage: Examining the impact of material
incarceration on the social, emotional, behavior and educational
functioning of children. Cleveland: Cleveland States University.
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Irvine: University of California.
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