Methods: An Appreciative Inquiry approach guided the research design, data collection and analysis (Cooperrider & Srivasta 1987), which involved quantitative and qualitative methods. These findings are drawn from a larger study of 128 incarcerated fathers and mothers who completed a number of questionnaires administered via an interview. The interviews used for this presentation were conducted with 64 incarcerated fathers. To provide a comparison, we interviewed 32 incarcerated men who had completed a parenting program and a further 32 men who had not. All the men were biological or step fathers of a child under 18 years of age.
Following ethical approval processes, demographic and Corrective Services data were gathered to provide a context and profile of the participants. This quantitative data provides a profile of the incarcerated fathers. Qualitative data were obtained from open-ended questions about parenting experiences and relationships with their children. Appreciative Inquiry enabled an exploration of parents’ experiences and aspirations and their situational strengths rather than focusing on deficits (Cooperrider & Srivasta 1987). The data were analysed using thematic analysis.
Results: The profile of the men interviewed included: aged between 19 and 52 years; were the father to 1-to-9 children; 93.9% were born in Australia; 21.2% had an incarcerated father, 2% had an incarcerated mother and 3% had both parents incarcerated; and 65.6% had their children visit them while incarcerated. Many of these men identified that they had limited experience of a fathering model that provided sensitive, appropriate care. The men described their feelings of guilt and regret and their desire to be a better father.
Conclusion: Findings from this research will be used to assist in the design of parenting support and education programs for incarcerated parents to support and increase their contact or reunion with their children.
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