Child drawing from prison visiting centre

The role of family

There is a strong importance in the relationship between the caregiver and the child.  Children’s resilience is enhanced by close and supportive relationships with grandparents and siblings. Children with secure attachment to the imprisoned parent can experience severe disruption when the trusted parent is incarcerated.

When a loved person is physically absent but psychologically present, as in situations of parental incarceration, divorce or immigration, it can be very confusing over a long time whether the imprisoned parent is in or out of the family.  Issues of uncertainty and stigma for children of prisoners via internalising behaviour can lead to depression, or externalising, antisocial behaviour.

Grandparents and the extended family play a particularly crucial role, through emotional, financial and material support. Continuing relationships and contact with the imprisoned parent are important for children’s resilience.  Family cohesion for the child depends largely on the quality of the emotional ties with the imprisoned parent, which the caregivers and wider family must actively promote for the mental health of the child.

Further information can be found in the DIHR and COPING reports.

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