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The (Dis)continuity of Parenthood Among Incarcerated Fathers: An Analysis of Caregivers’ Accounts

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The intersection of mass incarceration and fatherhood is of particular interest to a growing number of scholars, policymakers, and practitioners. In this study, the role of fathers in children’s lives before and during imprisonment are investigated from the caregiver perspective. Reliance on caregivers’ accounts offers valuable insight into the complexities of fathers’ involvement with children prior to and during incarceration. Data come from the Arizona Children of Incarcerated Parents (COIP) project and rely on in-depth interviews with a diverse set of 53 caregivers of children, including mothers (current/former partners), grandparents, extended family, and non-relatives. Findings reveal that while slightly more than half of caregivers (58%, n = 31) reported involvement by fathers in the lives of children prior to prison, considerably more (81%, n = 43) reported contact between fathers and children during imprisonment. Thematic content analysis was conducted to explore key themes in caregivers’ narratives to explain the continuity and disconnects in fatherhood. Overall, results highlight the need for intervention efforts that focus on incarcerated fathers and their children that are cognizant of variation in family life, as well as the central role of caregivers.
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Keywords: Incarceration; fathers

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Criminal Justice & Criminology, Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, TX, USA

Publication date: April 3, 2018

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