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The parenting possible selves of young fathers in prison

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Drawing on the social psychological concept of possible selves (Markus & Nurius, 1986, American Psychologist, 41, 954-969), this paper explores the parenting aspirations and concerns of young fathers in prison. Hoped, feared and present parenting possible selves were generated by 39 young adult prisoners, all aged between 18 and 21 years and parent to at least one child. The frequencies and sub-themes of the different categories of parenting possible selves are presented and discussed. Of particular relevance are issues surrounding separation from the child and re-establishing relationships after release from prison, but substance use, violence and the intergenerational transmission of parenting are also prominent themes. The utility of a possible selves questionnaire as a data collection tool in prisons is discussed and findings are explored in the context of delivering parenting education in prisons, developing interventions targeting young fathers after release, and future research directions.

Keywords: Social psychology; fathers; parenting; possible selves; prison; young offenders

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Psychology, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton, UK

Publication date: June 1, 2007


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