Caregiving Arrangements and Caregiver Well-being when Infants are Born to Mothers in Prison

Virginia E. Pendleton, Elizabeth M. Schmitgen, Laurel Davis, Rebecca J. Shlafer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Each year in the United States, over 1000 women give birth while in prison. Little is known about who cares for the infants after they are separated from their biological mothers. Additionally, little is known about the household characteristics of the caregivers, or the transitions infants may experience in their first year of life. In this study, we retrospectively reviewed administrative records of all the births (N = 114) to women incarcerated at one large Midwestern women’s prison between May 2013 and December 2018. We then conducted telephone interviews with caregivers (n = 30) who had provided care for 38 infants to better understand the context of caregiving for infants born to mothers in prison. We found that infants were most often discharged from the hospital to a grandparent. Caregivers reported a variety of challenges while caring for the infants, including maintaining employment, increased stressors, and the difficulty of transitioning the infant to another caregiver. By the age of one year, just under half of the infants remained under the primary care of the person who brought the infant home from the hospital; about one-quarter had transitioned to their biological mother’s care following their mothers’ release from prison. Results have implications for policies and programs aimed at supporting infants, caregivers, and mothers in prison.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1894-1907
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Child and Family Studies
Volume31
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by a grant awarded to Dr. Shlafer from the University of Minnesota Center for Urban and Regional Affairs, Faculty Interactive Research Program. This research was also supported by the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, grant UL1TR002494. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.

Keywords

  • Caregivers
  • Grandparents
  • Infants
  • Maternal incarceration
  • Relationships

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