Research Snapshot: Impact of Maternal Incarceration on Family Relationships

Findings from a recent study of the effects of incarceration on mothers and their children.

June 23, 2022

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Increasing rates of incarceration among women in Canada are raising concerns about stresses placed on family relationships with children, and the impact on child-rearing, pregnancy, and other motherhood experiences of incarcerated mothers.

This study was conducted to learn about improving the quality of contact and connection between incarcerated mothers and their children in Canada.

Using a combination of focus groups and one-on-one interviews, the researchers spoke to mothers who had previously experienced incarceration and others who were currently experiencing incarceration at the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility.

Three key themes emerged: “maintaining connection,” where mothers spoke of the difficulties of staying in contact with their children; “broken bonds,” which examined the emotional and psychological toll of separation; and “the damage,” where a lack of services, transitional, and financial supports when women are released negatively impacted their abilities to parent effectively.

This research builds on our growing understanding of the Family Structure component of the Vanier Institute’s Family Diversities Framework.

Paynter, M., Heggie, C., Matheson, L., Rillie, C., & Beals, D. (2022). Maternal incarceration in a provincial prison in Canada: A qualitative study. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 00, 1–16. https://doi.org/10.1111/JAN.15154

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