• CHRISTIN FAHMY Clinical Psychology Intern, Department of Psychology, Stockholm University, 106 91 Stockholm, Sweden, 070-405 83 46
  • ANNE H. BERMAN Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology, Center for Psychiatric Research, Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, Box 17070, 104 62 Stockholm, Sweden, +46 704245360


Children of prisoners, mental health effects, resilience, free parent’s perspective, recommendations


A parent’s imprisonment has various impacts on the child. The aim of this study was to investigate how free parents perceive that the other parent’s imprisonment has affected mutual children, and which interventions are perceived to improve these children’s situation. In semi-structured interviews, 16 free mothers in Sweden shared how the imprisonment has affected their family and the health of their children, 7-17 years old. The mothers reported the following consequences in the children following the father’s imprisonment: sadness, anxiety, disappointment, guilt, low self-esteem, fear, worries, anger, aggression, crisis, grief, separation anxiety, sleeping problems, bullying and physical reactions. The mothers’ suggested future improvements for meeting the needs of families with children of prisoners included better information and access to sources of support, speaking about the imprisonment openly, financial support and well-organised general support to the family, as well as better treatment options for the prisoner. Suggested improvements for the children in the visiting environment included shorter geographical distance to the incarcerated parent, more frequent and longer visiting hours, ‘child-friendly’ visiting environments, visiting apartments in prisons, furlough permits and general reforms in prison regimes. To enable these improvements and facilitate better life quality for children of prisoners, political measures would need to be enacted.


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