Parenting Programs for Incarcerated Fathers and Mothers: Current Research and New Directions

  • Ann Booker Loper
  • Caitlin Novero Clarke
  • Danielle H. DallaireEmail author


This chapter considers the impact of parenting programming on incarcerated fathers and mothers from a gendered perspective. This body of work is considered relative to programming and interventions that occur outside of the correctional environment. We review both qualitative and quantitative evaluations of programs and, given the emerging state of this literature, consider some unevaluated programs as well. We focus on quantitative empirical evaluations, including pre-post designs, non-randomized comparison group designs, and randomized comparison group designs, and examine impacts on participants’ parenting knowledge and attitudes, well-being and parenting stress, and behaviors. In total, 38 studies were reviewed (57% for mothers). Collectively, the findings indicate that programming has positive impacts on incarcerated mothers’ and fathers’ knowledge and attitudes, well-being, and stress. The results are mixed when behavioral changes are examined. We explore limitations to this body of research and challenges researchers face in conducting evaluations of programs for incarcerated parents. We conclude with recommendations for future research, policy, and practice.


Incarcerated parents Educational programming Intervention Evaluation 


  1. Abidin, R. R., & Brunner, J. F. (1995). Development of a parenting alliance inventory. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 24, 31–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Abidin, R. R., & Konold, T. (1999). Parenting alliance measure: Professional manual. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources Inc.Google Scholar
  3. Antonio, M. E., Winegeard, L. M., Young, J. L., & Zortman, J. S. (2009). An evaluation of Pennsylvania’s Department of Corrections parenting program: Final report. Harrisburg, PA: Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. Retrieved March 2, 2009 from
  4. Applegate, B. (2001). Penal austerity: Perceived utility, desert, and public attitudes toward prison amenities. American Journal of Criminal Justice, 25, 253–268.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Arditti, J., Smock, S., & Parkman, T. S. (2005). “It’s been hard to be a father”: A qualitative exploration of incarcerated fatherhood. Fathering, 3, 267–288.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Armstrong, E., Eggins, E., Reid, N., Harnett, P., & Dawe, S. (2017). Parenting interventions for incarcerated parents to improve parenting knowledge and skills, parent well-being, and quality of the parent–child relationship: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Experimental Criminology, 1–39.Google Scholar
  7. Barr, R., Brito, N., Zocca, J., Reina, S., Rodriguez, J., & Shauffer, C. (2011). The Baby Elmo program (the just beginning program): Improving teen father–child interactions within juvenile justice facilities. Children and Youth Services Review, 33(9), 1555–1562.Google Scholar
  8. Bavolek, S. J. (1984). Adult-Adolescent Parenting Inventory (AAPI). Park City, UT: Family Development Resources.Google Scholar
  9. Bavolek, S. J. (1999). Nurturing parenting: Teaching empathy, self-worth and discipline to school-age children (4th ed.). Park City, UT: Family Development Resources Inc.Google Scholar
  10. Bavolek, S. J., & Comstock, C. (1985). The Nurturing Program. Eau Claire, WI: Family Development Resources.Google Scholar
  11. Bavolek, S. J., & Keene, R. G. (2001). Adult-Adolescent Parenting Inventory AAPI-2: Administration and development handbook. Park City UT: Family Development Resources Inc.Google Scholar
  12. Bayse, D. J., Allgood, S. M., & Van Wyk, P. H. (1991). Family life education: An effective tool for prisoner rehabilitation. Family Relations, 254–257.Google Scholar
  13. Block, S., Brown, C. A., Barretti, L. M., Walker, E., Yudt, M., & Fretz, R. (2014). A mixed method assessment of a parenting program for incarcerated fathers. Journal of Correctional Education, 65, 50–67.Google Scholar
  14. Browne, D. H. (1989). Incarcerated mothers and parenting. Journal of Family Violence, 4, 211–221.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Bruns, D. A., King, T., & Stateler, T. (2003). “The parenting class … has helped me to better realize the parent I want to be”: The HOPE program for female offenders and their children. NHSA Dialog, 6, 289–301.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Burraston, B. O., & Eddy, J. M. (2017). The moderating effect of living with a child before incarceration on postrelease outcomes related to a prison-based parent management training program. Smith College Studies in Social Work, 87(1), 94–111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Bush, J., Glick, B., & Taymans, J. (2016). Thinking for a change. Longmont, CO: National Institute of Corrections, United States Department of Justice.Google Scholar
  18. Bushfield, S. (2004). Fathers in prison: Impact of parenting education. Journal of Correctional Education, 55, 104–116.Google Scholar
  19. Byrne, M. (2010). Interventions within Prison Nurseries. In J. M. Eddy & J. Poehlmann (Eds.), Children of incarcerated parents: A handbook for researchers and practitioners (pp. 161–188).Google Scholar
  20. Byrne, M. W., Goshin, L. S., & Joestl, S. S. (2010). Intergenerational transmission of attachment for infants raised in a prison nursery. Attachment & Human Development, 12(4), 375–393. Scholar
  21. Carlson, J. R. (2001). Prison nursery 2000: A five-year review of the prison nursery at the Nebraska Correctional Center for Women. Journal of Offender Rehabilitation, 33, 75–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Carlson, J. R. (2009). Prison nurseries. A pathway to crime-free futures. Correctional Compendium, 34, 17–22.Google Scholar
  23. Catan, L. (1988). The development of young children in HMP mother and baby units. University of Sussex.Google Scholar
  24. Catan, L. (1992). Infants with mothers in prison. In Prisoners’ children: What are the issues (pp. 13–28).Google Scholar
  25. Clarke, L., O’Brien, M., Day, R., Godwin, H., Connolly, J., Hemmings, J., et al. (2005). Fathering behind bars in English prisons: Imprisoned fathers’ identity and contact with their children. Fathering, 3, 221–241.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Covington, S. S., & Bloom, B. E. (2006). Gender-responsive treatment and services in correctional settings. Women and Therapy, 29(3/4), 9–33. Retrieved June 22, 2017 from
  27. Czuba, C., Anderson, S. A., & Higgins, S. (2006, August). Evaluation of the People Empowering People program within a prison population. Journal of Extension, 44. Article 4RIB4. Retrieved February 17, 2009, from
  28. Dallaire, D. H., & Shlafer, R. J. (2017). Programs for currently and formerly incarcerated mothers. In C. Wildeman, A. R. Haskins, & J. Poehlmann-Tynan (Eds.), When parents are incarcerated: Interdisciplinary research and interventions to support children (pp. 88–108). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  29. De Graaf, I., Speetjens, P., Smit, F., De Wolff, M., & Tavecchio, L. D. (2008). Effectiveness of the Triple P positive parenting program on behavioral problems in children: A meta-analysis. Behavior Modification, 32, 714–735.Google Scholar
  30. Derogatis, L. (1993). Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI): Administration, scoring, and procedures manual (3rd ed.). Minneapolis, MN: National Computer Systems.Google Scholar
  31. Dinkmeyer, C., & McKay, G. D. (1989). The parent’s handbook: STEP Systematic Training for Effective Parenting (3rd ed.). Circle Pines, MN: American Guidance Services.Google Scholar
  32. Dishion, T. J., & Snyder, J. J. (Eds.). (2016). The Oxford handbook of coercive relationship dynamics. New York, NY: Oxford Press.Google Scholar
  33. Donaldson, M. S. (1998). The urgent need to improve health care quality: Consensus statement.Google Scholar
  34. Eddy, M. J., & Burraston, B. O. (2017). Programs promoting the successful reentry of fathers from jail or prison to home in their communities. In C. Wildeman, J. Poehlmann & A. Haskins (Eds.), When parents are incarcerated: Interdisciplinary research and interventions to support children (pp. 109–121). American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  35. Eddy, J. M., Martinez, C. R., & Burraston, B. (2013). VI. A randomized controlled trial of a parent management training program for incarcerated parents: Proximal impacts. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 78(3), 75–93. Chicago.Google Scholar
  36. Eddy, J. M., Martinez, Jr., C. R., Burraston, B. O., Herrera, D., Wheeler, A., & Newton, R. (2018). A randomized controlled trial of a parent management training program for incarcerated parents: Outcomes following release from prison. Manuscript submitted for publication.Google Scholar
  37. Eddy, J. M., Martinez, C. R., Schiffman, T., Newton, R., Olin, L., Leve, L., et al. (2008). Development of a multisystemic parent management training intervention for incarcerated parents, their children and families. Clinical Psychologist, 12, 86–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Family Development Resources. (2008). Nurturing Parenting Program validation studies 1983–2008. Retrieved March 22, 2009, from
  39. Ferszt, G. G., & Clarke, J. G. (2012). Health care of pregnant women in US state prisons. Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, 23(2), 557–569.Google Scholar
  40. Gat, I. (2000). Incarcerated mothers: Effects of the Mother/Offspring Life Development Program (MOLD) on recidivism, prosocial moral development, empathy, hope, and parent-child attachment. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. University of Nebraska, Lincoln.Google Scholar
  41. Glaze, L., & Maruschak, L. (2008). Parents in prison and their minor children. Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Gonzalez, P., Romero, T., & Cerbana, C. B. (2007). Parenting education for incarcerated mothers in Colorado. Journal of Correctional Education, 58, 357–373.Google Scholar
  43. Goshin, L. S., Byrne, M. W., & Blanchard-Lewis, B. (2014a). Preschool outcomes of children who lived as infants in a prison nursery. The Prison Journal, 94(2), 139–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Goshin, L. S., Byrne, M. W., & Henninger, A. M. (2014b). Recidivism after release from a prison nursery program. Public Health Nursing, 31(2), 109–117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Hairston, C. F. (1991). Mothers in jail: Parent-child separation and jail visitation. Affilia, 6, 9–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Harm, N. J., Thompson, P. J., & Chambers, H. (1998). The effectiveness of parent education for substance abusing women offenders. Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly, 16, 63–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Harrison, K. (1997). Parental training for incarcerated fathers: Effects on attitudes, self-esteem, and children’s self perceptions. Journal of Social Psychology, 137, 588–593.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Hesse, B. W. (2018). Can psychology walk the walk of open science? American Psychologist, 73(2), 126–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Hughes, M. J., & Harrison-Thompson, J. (2002). Prison parenting programs: A national survey. Social Policy Journal, 1, 57–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. James, D. J., & Glaze, L. E. (2006). Mental health problems of prison and jail inmates. Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Jordan, B. K., Schlenger, W. E., Fairbank, J. A., & Caddell, J. M. (1996). Prevalence of psychiatric disorders among incarcerated women: Convicted felons entering prison. Archives of General Psychiatry, 53, 513–519.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Kazura, K. (2001). Family programming for incarcerated parents: A needs assessment among inmates. Journal of Offender Rehabilitation, 32, 67–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Kelsey, C. M., Medel, N., Mullins, C., Dallaire, D., & Forestell, C. (2017). An examination of care practices of pregnant women incarcerated in jail facilities in the United States. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 21(6), 1260–1266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Kennon, S. (2003). Developing the parenting skills of incarcerated parents: A program evaluation (Unpublished master’s thesis). Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA.Google Scholar
  55. Landreth, G. L., & Lobaugh, A. F. (1998). Filial therapy with incarcerated fathers: Effects on parental acceptance of child, parental stress, and child adjustment. Journal of Counseling & Development, 76, 157–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. LaRosa, J. J., & Rank, M. G. (2001). Parenting education and incarcerated fathers. Journal of Family Social Work, 6(3), 15–33.Google Scholar
  57. Laughlin, J. S., Arrigo, B. A., Blevins, K. R., & Coston, C. T. (2008). Incarcerated mothers and child visitation: A law, social science, and policy perspective. Criminal Justice Policy Review, 19(2), 215–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Lindquist, C., McKay, T., Steffey, D., & Bir, A. (2016). Impact of couples-based family strengthening services for incarcerated and reentering fathers and their partners. In ASPE research brief. Washington, DC: Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.Google Scholar
  59. Loper, A. B., & Tuerk, E. H. (2011). Improving the emotional adjustment and communication patterns of incarcerated mothers: Effectiveness of a prison parenting intervention. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 20(1), 89–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Maiorano, J. J., & Futris, T. G. (2005, October). Fit 2-B FATHERS: The effectiveness of extension programming with incarcerated fathers. Journal of Extension, 43. Article 5FEA6.Google Scholar
  61. Meek, R. (2007). Parenting education for young fathers in prison. Child and Family Social Work, 12, 239–247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Meyer, D., & Moriarty, C. (1995). Rebonding and rebuilding: A parenting curriculum (4th ed.). Los Angeles: Hacienda La Puenta.Google Scholar
  63. Mindel, C. H., & Hoefer, R. A. (2006). An evaluation of a family strengthening program for substance abuse offenders. Journal of Social Service Research, 32, 23–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Moore, A., & Clement, M. J. (1998). Effects of parenting training for incarcerated mothers. Journal of Offender Rehabilitation, 27(1–2), 57–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. National Fatherhood Initiative. (2005). InsideOut DadTM: A program for incarcerated fathers. Gaithersburg, MD: Author.Google Scholar
  66. National Fatherhood Initiative. (2008). InsideOut DadTM Program Evaluation Report. Gaithersburg, MD: Author.Google Scholar
  67. National Fatherhood Initiative. (2009). InsideOut DadTM program in Maryland and Ohio prisons evaluation report. Gaithersburg, MD: Author.Google Scholar
  68. Ortega, S., Beauchemin, A., & Kaniskan, R. (2008). Building resiliency in families with young children exposed to violence: The Safe Start Initiative pilot study. Best Practices in Mental Health, 4, 48–64.Google Scholar
  69. Palusci, V. J., Crum, P., Bliss, R., & Bavolek, S. J. (2008). Changes in parenting attitudes and knowledge among inmates and other at-risk populations after a family nurturing program. Children and Youth Services Review, 30, 79–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Pollock, J. (2003). Parenting programs in women’s prisons. Women and Criminal Justice, 14, 131–154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Robbers, M. L. P. (2005). Focus on family and fatherhood: Lessons from Fairfax County’s responsible fatherhood program for incarcerated dads. Justice Policy Journal, 2(1), 1–27.Google Scholar
  72. Rodgers, A. (1998). Multiple sources of stress and parenting behavior. Child and Youth Services Review, 20, 525–546.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Rogers-Farmer, A. Y. (1999). Parenting stress, depression, and parenting in grandmothers raising their grandchildren. Children and Youth Services Review, 21, 377–388.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Sanders, M. R., Sanders, M. R., Markie-Dadds, C., Tully, L. A., & Bor, W. (2000). The Triple P-Positive Parenting Program: A comparison of enhanced, standard, and self-directed behavioral family intervention for parents of children with early onset conduct problems. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 68, 624–640.Google Scholar
  75. Sandifer, J. L. (2008). Evaluating the efficacy of a parenting program for incarcerated mothers. The Prison Journal, 8, 423–445.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Schiffmann, T. J., Eddy, J. M., Martinez, C. R., Leve, L., & Newton, R. (2008). Parenting Inside Out: Parent management training for incarcerated parents in prison. Portland, OR: Oregon Social Learning Center and Children’s Justice Alliance.Google Scholar
  77. Shlonsky, A., Rose, D. J., Harris, J., Albers, B., Mildon, R., Wilson, S. J., et al. (2016). Literature review of prison-based mothers and children programs: Final report.Google Scholar
  78. Scudder, A. T., McNeil, C. B., Chengappa, K., & Costello, A. H. (2014). Evaluation of an existing parenting class within a women’s state correctional facility and a parenting class modeled from parent–child interaction therapy. Children and Youth Services Review, 46, 238–247. Scholar
  79. Shortt, J. W., Eddy, J. M., Sheeber, L., & Davis, B. (2014). Project Home: A pilot evaluation of an emotion-focused intervention for mothers reuniting with children after prison. Psychological Services, 11(1), 1–9. Scholar
  80. Showers, J. (1993). Assessing and remedying parenting knowledge among women inmates. Journal of Offender Rehabilitation, 20(1–2), 35–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Skarupski, K. A., Bullock, C. J., Fitch, C., Johnson, A. L., Kelso, L. M., Fox, E. R., et al. (2003). Outcomes evaluation of the Long Distance Dads© program. Penn State Erie: Center for Organization Research. Retrieved January 8, 2009 from
  82. Sleed, M., Baradon, T., & Fonagy, P. (2013). New beginnings for mothers and babies in prison: A cluster randomized controlled trial. Attachment & Human Development, 15(4), 349–367.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Snyder-Joy, Z. K., & Carlo, T. A. (1998). Parenting through prison walls: Incarcerated mothers and children’s visitation programs. In S. L. Miller (Ed.), Crime control and women: Feminist implications of criminal justice policy (pp. 130–150). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Thomas, R., Thomas, R., & Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J. (2007). Behavioral outcomes of parent-child interaction therapy and Triple P-Positive Parenting Program: A review and meta-analysis. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 35, 475–495.Google Scholar
  85. Thompson, P. J., & Harm, N. (2000). Parenting from prison: Helping children and mothers. Issues in Comprehensive Pediatric Nursing, 23, 35–46.Google Scholar
  86. Valle, L. A., Whitaker, D. J., Lutzker, J. R., Filene, J. H., Wyatt, J. M., Cephas, K. C., et al. (2004). Using evidence-based parenting programs to advance CDC efforts in child maltreatment prevention: Research brief. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.Google Scholar
  87. Warren, J. I., Hurt, S., Loper, A., Bale, R., Friend, R., & Chauhan, P. (2002). Psychiatric symptoms, history of victimization, and violent behavior among incarcerated female felons: An American perspective. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 25, 129–149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Webster-Stratton, C. (2001). The Incredible Years: Parents, teachers, and children training series. Residential Treatment for Children & Youth, 18, 31–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Wilczak, G. L., & Markstrom, C. A. (1999). The effects of parent education on parental locus of control and satisfaction of incarcerated fathers. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 43(1), 90–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. Wright, E. M., Van Voorhis, P., Salisbury, E. J., & Bauman, A. (2012). Gender-responsive lessons learned and policy implications for women in prison. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 39(12), 1621–1632. Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ann Booker Loper
    • 1
  • Caitlin Novero Clarke
    • 1
  • Danielle H. Dallaire
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Curry School of EducationUniversity of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychological SciencesThe College of William & MaryWilliamsburgUSA

Personalised recommendations