, Volume 26, Issue 5, pp 467-479

Violence Exposure Among Children of Incarcerated Mothers

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Abstract

Social workers are becoming increasingly aware of the unique experiences faced by children of incarcerated parents. Little is known, however, about their experiences prior to their parents being incarcerated. Using data from a broader study of incarcerated women, we examined women’s accounts of their children’s exposure to violence prior to maternal incarceration. Open-ended interviews addressed family and relationship history, physical and psychological victimization, lifetime delinquency and crime, and interactions with service and justice systems. Interviews were analyzed using ATLAS/ti software and a grounded-theory approach. The emergent themes revealed a myriad of consequences experienced by the children, including child witnessing of violence, emotional sequelae, bodily harm from abuse and neglect, sexual abuse, and birth defects from prenatal violence. Implications for research and practice are discussed.