Title

“Left Behind”: Intersections of Prison, Mothering Occupations and Resilience

Start Time

22-10-2011 8:30 AM

End Time

22-10-2011 9:00 AM

Session Type

Event

Abstract

Statement of Problem: Prison not only punishes the one locked away; it also punishes the families “left behind” through the “forced abandonment” of their loved one. Thus, families left behind are effectively also locked away in a state of liminality as they have no choice but to wait and create some semblance of a “normal” life without their loved one. For mothers, their role and related occupations are often significantly altered during this time. Currently, there is a dearth of research in the general literature covering the effects of imprisonment on families left behind. There are fewer studies still in the occupational science literature covering the effects of prison on those incarcerated and virtually no studies covering the effects imprisonment on family members left behind.

Method: In this paper, I describe the qualitative and ethnographic research of an online community for those with loved ones in prison called Prison Talk Online, while also drawing on other narrative sources. I utilize narrative analysis methods developed by Lawlor and Mattingly in their longitudinal ethnographic study, Boundary Crossings, in order to answer questions such as: “What happens and how do families (particularly mothers) cope when their loved one (son, daughter, partner or parent) goes to prison, leaving them behind, and effectively altering and disrupting mothering work and occupations?” Data analysis is triangulated to ensure rigor and trustworthiness.

Findings: I describe the adversities that come with having a loved one enter the incarceration system, as well as, factors that enhance resilience outcomes when navigating these multiple adversities. Mothers with children in prison must face the absence or occupational deprivation of lost mothering occupations; while partners of those in prison must face the hardships that come with single parenting of (often) grieving children. Additionally, many mothers of children in prison are left to raise their grandchildren, adding yet another layer of challenges to their mothering role. In spite of the lack of physical proximity to their loved one in prison, mothers create and improvise ways to still connect and engage in disrupted mothering occupations.

Implications: This is an important topic for occupational science as it touches upon major ethical and occupational justice issues that affect a marginalized and often forgotten population: prisoners and their loved ones left behind. Additionally, while the use of online ethnography and its narrative analysis is still a relatively nascent form of scientific inquiry it is pregnant with possibility and thus worthy of a closer examination.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What ethical questions and problems might arise from utilizing online data sources?
  2. What are the difficulties in conceptualizing the term “resilience”?
  3. What implications do findings such as these have for occupational scientists and the general public alike?

References

Lawlor, M. C. (2004). Mothering work: Negotiating health care, illness and disability, and development. Mothering occupations: Challenge, agency and participation, 306–323.

Luthar, S. S., & Brown, P. J. (2007). Maximizing resilience through diverse levels of inquiry: Prevailing paradigms, possibilities, and priorities for the future. Development and psychopathology, 19(03), 931-955. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0954579407000454

Western, B., & Wildeman, C. (2009). The black family and mass incarceration. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 621(1), 221. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0002716208324850

Whiteford, G. (1997). Occupational deprivation and incarceration. Journal of Occupational Science: Australia, 4(3), 126-130. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14427591.1997.9686429

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Oct 22nd, 8:30 AM Oct 22nd, 9:00 AM

“Left Behind”: Intersections of Prison, Mothering Occupations and Resilience

Statement of Problem: Prison not only punishes the one locked away; it also punishes the families “left behind” through the “forced abandonment” of their loved one. Thus, families left behind are effectively also locked away in a state of liminality as they have no choice but to wait and create some semblance of a “normal” life without their loved one. For mothers, their role and related occupations are often significantly altered during this time. Currently, there is a dearth of research in the general literature covering the effects of imprisonment on families left behind. There are fewer studies still in the occupational science literature covering the effects of prison on those incarcerated and virtually no studies covering the effects imprisonment on family members left behind.

Method: In this paper, I describe the qualitative and ethnographic research of an online community for those with loved ones in prison called Prison Talk Online, while also drawing on other narrative sources. I utilize narrative analysis methods developed by Lawlor and Mattingly in their longitudinal ethnographic study, Boundary Crossings, in order to answer questions such as: “What happens and how do families (particularly mothers) cope when their loved one (son, daughter, partner or parent) goes to prison, leaving them behind, and effectively altering and disrupting mothering work and occupations?” Data analysis is triangulated to ensure rigor and trustworthiness.

Findings: I describe the adversities that come with having a loved one enter the incarceration system, as well as, factors that enhance resilience outcomes when navigating these multiple adversities. Mothers with children in prison must face the absence or occupational deprivation of lost mothering occupations; while partners of those in prison must face the hardships that come with single parenting of (often) grieving children. Additionally, many mothers of children in prison are left to raise their grandchildren, adding yet another layer of challenges to their mothering role. In spite of the lack of physical proximity to their loved one in prison, mothers create and improvise ways to still connect and engage in disrupted mothering occupations.

Implications: This is an important topic for occupational science as it touches upon major ethical and occupational justice issues that affect a marginalized and often forgotten population: prisoners and their loved ones left behind. Additionally, while the use of online ethnography and its narrative analysis is still a relatively nascent form of scientific inquiry it is pregnant with possibility and thus worthy of a closer examination.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What ethical questions and problems might arise from utilizing online data sources?
  2. What are the difficulties in conceptualizing the term “resilience”?
  3. What implications do findings such as these have for occupational scientists and the general public alike?