Date of Conferral





Public Policy and Administration


Mary Bruce


Seventy-five percent of women offenders confined to prison, jails, or residential treatment programs are custodial parents of minor children at the time of their separation. Little is known, though, about how prosocial networks are used to address the effects of separation from children. Using Bui and Morash's conceptualization of the theory of gendered pathways, the purpose of this phenomenological study was to better understand, from the perspective of incarcerated women, the experience of using prosocial networks to cope with the effects of separation. Data were collected through interviews with 10 mothers from 2 residential treatment programs in Michigan. Interview data were inductively coded, then subjected to a thematic analysis procedure. A key finding of this study was that women experience remorse, embarrassment, helplessness, and a sense of failure with respect to providing adequate care for their children and rely on their mothers or other female family members as the primary prosocial influence. Findings also suggest that Child Protective Services (CPS) is viewed by participants as intrusive and outside the prosocial network, yet significant to family reunification and permanency planning for children. Implications for positive social change include recommendations to criminal justice policymakers and Child Protective Services to consider provisions for supportive services for gender-specific programs that build on the influence of other, prosocial, female family members and promote a clear pathway to permanency planning for families, particularly where minor children are involved.