Navigating incarceration: Family process related to maternal incarceration and family stress
Tomlinson, Allison C
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This qualitative study explored formerly incarcerated mothers’ perceptions of relationship quality, daughter self-esteem, and participant identity as a mother with 7 mothers who participated in the Girls Embracing Mothers (GEM) program for incarcerated mothers. Individual interview and focus group data for 7 mothers and pre-collected surveys from 22 mothers were analyzed to explore factors from the Double ABCX Model of Family Stress consistent with transcendental phenomenological data analysis. The findings of this study indicate that participants experienced a family stress process consistent with the Double ABCX Model. Participants reported improved relationship quality, daughter self-esteem, and more positive perceptions of themselves as a mother after participation in the GEM program. The stress meeting tools including resources and ascribed meaning were analyzed to identify how these coping mechanisms impacted crisis adaptation. Mothers demonstrated positive adaptation as a result of intervention from the GEM program that improved communication, reduced isolation, built shared experience, and facilitated mother daughter bonding. The findings of this study imply that the opportunity for natural and warm physical contact aimed at improving relationship quality between mothers and daughters positively impacts mothers and daughters during incarceration. The findings of this study suggest that parenting education can be a powerful resource when combined with extended visitation to improve parent child relationships. Development of a shared reality through open and honest communication was a positive component of the intervention explored in this study. Based on the findings of this study future research is needed to address additional maternal incarceration population issues such as mother and son dynamics. Additionally, comparisons between the GEM population and other prison-based interventions for incarcerated mothers is needed to further exploration of the effectiveness of combining parent intervention and extended visitation.