Date of Award

12-2009

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Sociology

Major Professor

Lois Presser

Committee Members

Allison Anders, Damayanti Banerjee, Ben Feldmeyer

Abstract

Extensive research has been conducted to understand the experience of incarceration, with the focus on hardships inflicted on inmates via incarceration. In addition, the current graying of America‟s prisons has gained some attention from both policymakers and the general public. However, despite the recent upsurge in concern and interest in matters pertaining to prison inmates, the focus by and large remains on young males. Meanwhile, studies addressing the experience of incarceration for older females are virtually non-existent. Generativity, defined as the desire to give back and execution of that desire, is regarded as a universal life stage first occurring sometime during middle age. Yet, generativity among older female inmates has not been specifically researched. This research project explores the experience of incarceration as well as the presence and practice of generativity among older female inmates.

Participants in this study were 29 female inmates housed at the Kentucky Correctional Institution for Women in Pewee Valley, Kentucky. Data were collected through low-structure interviews, which allowed the participants to discuss issues that were important to them.

The findings suggest that older women experience motherhood and incarceration in unique ways. Generativity was indicated to exist among older women inmates. Furthermore, the participants reported engaging in generative behaviors in prison and expressed desires to continue to be generative upon their release. A number of policy implications are suggested, as are a number of areas that may be of interest to researchers in future.

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