While research has shown that family visits to incarcerated individuals can reduce recidivism, a recent study suggests that the quality of inmates’ relationships with their mothers is a better predictor of whether they will re-offend.
In a recent longitudinal study published in Criminal Justice and Behavior, researchers surveyed 205 female and male adult inmates serving up to two years in five southern correctional facilities. Most of the participants had relatively
extensive arrest histories, and were incarcerated, on average, for 8½ months.
The researchers assessed the quality of inmates’ relationships with their mothers, fathers, and romantic partners by measuring the importance of each relationship, the level of warmth and affection received, the amount of support and encouragement received, and the inmates’ overall level of satisfaction with the relationship.
Then they extrapolated official visitation data obtained from the state’s Department of Corrections that included the number of visits inmates received from their mothers, fathers and romantic partners; and recidivism data obtained from official Department of Public Safety criminal history records.
They found that inmates who had a higher quality relationship with their mother prior to incarceration not only had higher odds of being visited by their mother, but also had significantly lower chances of recidivating.
Neither the quality of the inmate’s relationship with their father nor romantic partner were significantly related to recidivism.
Although the quality of pre-incarceration relationships is significantly associated with visitation, visits alone do not reduce recidivism, according to the study.
“Findings indicate that quality of an inmate’s pre-incarceration relationships is more important in reducing the odds of recidivism than visitation,” the researchers wrote.
“Most critical, a strong maternal relationship prior to incarceration was associated with a reduction in recidivism subsequent to a period of incarceration.”
The authors offered some possible explanations for mothers’ crucial role in reducing recidivism:
- Previous research studies have documented the unique and unconditional bond between mothers and their children.
- The rise of single-parent households since the 1960s has diminished fathers’ involvement in their children’s lives.
The data shows a stark contrast between mothers and fathers.
While inmates indicated having the highest-quality relationship with their mother compared to their father and romantic partners, inmates had the lowest quality relationship with their father.
Furthermore, 34 percent of inmates were visited at least once by their mother, but only 10 percent were visited by their father.
The study was conducted by Cassandra A. Atkin-Plunk , an assistant professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Florida Atlantic University; and Gaylene S. Armstrong, director of the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice in the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
The full study is available for purchase only here.
This summary was prepared by TCR news intern J. Gabriel Ware.