Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Suzanne Kurth


Two· thirds of incarcerated women are mothers. Increasing incarcerated mothers' parenting abilities while they are in prison may increase their potential for practicing effective parenting both inside and outside the prison context. This study evaluated the · efficacy of the parenting program at the Kentucky Correctional Institution for Women (KCIW) in changing inmate mothers' parenting knowledge and skills. A pretest-post tests nonequivalent comparison group quasi-experimental design was used to assess short term change in parenting knowledge after a 12 week parent education course. Results from paired samples t-tests of parenting class participants' time one and time two scores on scales from the Parent Child Relationship Inventory (Gerard 1994) and the Adult Adolescent Parenting Inventory (Bavolek and Keene 1999) suggested change likely resulting from the KCIW Parenting Program. Before and after differences in scores of a treatment group ( n=64) of participants who completed the course indicate significant positive change in their child development knowledge; preference for corporal punishment; attitudes about parent child role reversal; and empathetic awareness of their children's needs. No significant change after 12 weeks was indicated in a comparison group ( n=26) of inmate mothers who had never participated in the KCIW parenting program. Contextualization of KCIW inmate life provides a backdrop for quantitative findings. Wanting to belong and be significant to someone appears to have resulted in the emergence of an indigenous culture that focuses on who likes who� as well as various imported culture features. For example, narrative evidence from semi structured interviews with 50 inmates suggests that parent education classes and parent child interactional opportunities (Bonding Program, Kids Day, Teen Day, and Girl Scouts Beyond Bars) impact how inmate mothers "do their time." These opportunities provide time for practicing parenting skills; aid inmate mothers' emotional adjustment; and help alleviate some of the problems associated with regular visitation· ( e.g., lack of privacy for parent/child communication, time restraints, and practices that encourage parent-child role reversal). Based on this program evaluation, prison parenting programs can change how inmate mothers' see parenting and thus potentially their parenting practices. From a life course theoretical perspective, increasing incarcerated mothers' social capital (i.e., stores of knowledge, skills, and relationships) may aid their reintegration into society and encourage them to choose pro social pathways. Equipping them to transfer and create stores of social capital in their children (e.g., through effective parenting) may aid in preventing their children from following the criminal pathway set by their parents.

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