University students/graduates who have experienced parental incarceration: A qualitative exploratory study of protective processes

Jinyi Zhang, Catherine Flynn

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10 Citations (Scopus)


Incarceration of a parent has been shown to have significant negative impacts on children’s development, with poorer educational outcomes and engagement in anti-social behaviours. However, the experiences of children who do well, despite parental incarceration, have been largely ignored in scholarly research. This study therefore sought to bring a strengths-orientation to this area, investigating the protective processes described as important by non-offending, ‘resilient’, young adults with lived experience of parental incarceration. Data from individual semi-structured interviews conducted with five university students/graduates demonstrate the role of family support. Family-related protective processes, including positive caregiving characteristics, perceived closeness with non-incarcerated caregivers and multi-faceted family support, are the most important in helping the participants cope well and develop resilience. These findings provide important initial knowledge in this area and propose core areas for further investigation. These preliminary findings suggest that assisting families, through the provision of resources and parenting supports, would be helpful in facilitating the development of resilience for children with incarcerated parents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)882-900
Number of pages19
JournalQualitative Social Work
Issue number5-6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2020


  • Children
  • family support
  • parental incarceration
  • protective processes
  • resilience

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