Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 26, Issue 12, pp 3247–3265 | Cite as

The Effectiveness of Parenting Programs for Incarcerated Mothers: A Systematic Review

  • Monique D. TremblayEmail author
  • Jessica E. Sutherland
Original Paper


There is evidence to suggest that maternal incarceration can have negative implications for children. Children in these families can be at greater risk for conduct problems and antisocial behavior, as well as school dropout and academic failure. Institution-based parenting programs represent one means of addressing the potential negative impacts of maternal incarceration on children’s wellbeing. Through parent training programs, mothers may develop skills and strategies to help their children cope with the challenges and stressors associated with incarceration. However, it is currently unclear whether parenting programs for mothers in these facilities have a positive effect on different parenting outcomes. We conducted a systematic search of several electronic databases using key search terms and identified sixteen treatment studies. The results suggest that in the short-term, corrections-based parenting programs are associated with positive effects on parenting behavior, parenting attitudes, and parenting knowledge. However, these programs appear to have no effect on parenting stress immediately post-treatment. Implications for practice and recommendations for future research are discussed.


Female offenders Parenting programs Incarcerated parents Effectiveness Parent training 



We would like to thank Dr. Karen Milligan and Dr. Leslie Atkinson for their helpful comments on the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyRyerson UniversityTorontoCanada

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