The role of felony probationers' families in the desistance process
The purpose of this study was to explore the role of family during probation from the perspective of the felony probationer. A qualitative, phenomenological approach was used to gain insight into how felony probationers' perceive their family's role, and what aspects of family are deemed most and least helpful during probation.
Interviews were conducted with 18 felony probationers who were at least 21 years of age, on felony probation for a minimum of three years, and assessed as being medium to high risk. The interviews were audio taped and transcribed by both the researcher and a professional transcriber. Four major themes emerged: family networks; providing focus, direction and meaning to life; source of frustration, disappointment and stress, and; family ties.
Family networks were discussed within the subthemes of family composition, perceived quality of the family relationship and family formation. Children as motivation, nurturant and instrumental support, and structure in daily life were discussed under the theme of providing focus, direction and meaning to life. Family was perceived as a source of frustration, disappointment and stress when instrumental and nurturant support were lacking. Strong ties with family members were demonstrated throughout the interviews.
Felony probationers reported the importance of what family provides from both an overall perspective and day to day interactions. Families provide nurturant and instrumental support—at varying levels. Support was categorized at four levels: optimal, acceptable, helpful and minimal.