What happens in a child's world when their parent(s) goes to jail? : the voice of a child : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Masters of Arts, Psychology at Massey University, Albany, New Zealand

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Massey University
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This qualitative study provides a unique insight into the lives of six children who have a parent in prison. It adds to the limited research available and affords children an opportunity to share their experiences of parental imprisonment. A New Zealand Māori cultural perspective, which can be used across cultures, was used to engage participants and develop topic headings and questions. Six children, aged nine to sixteen, participated in an audio recorded semi structured interview, which was then transcribed verbatim. An inductive thematic analysis was used to identify and analyse themes within these transcripts. Three main themes emerged from this analysis, including loss, stigma/secrecy and support/coping. Loss played a significant role in the children’s experiences, and included not only the loss of their imprisoned parent, but also financial security. The effects of loss are exacerbated by the lack of recognition, and the associated stigma it receives from the wider society. Stigma, along with secrecy appeared as a second theme, and is discussed in the context of participant’s awareness of their stigma status, which then elicits the use of secrecy to manage and avoid the negative reactions of others. The theme of support and coping revealed other, more positive coping mechanisms used by participants, which included joining sports and other social groups, along with seeking out adult and peer support. It was evident from these themes, that although parental imprisonment complicates a child’s life and brings many adversities, the use of positive coping mechanisms and seeking out supports, may buffer the ill effects of this experience, but not take away the grief they feel.
Children of prisoners, New Zealand