Date of Award


Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Justice Studies

First Advisor

Kristie R. Blevins

Department Affiliation

Justice Studies

Second Advisor

Betsy Matthews

Department Affiliation

Justice Studies

Third Advisor

Judah Schept

Department Affiliation

Justice Studies


Tougher sentencing policies have resulted in a dramatic increase in the jail and prison populations in the United States over the past few decades. The number of women who are spending time behind bars have vastly increased as a result of this. Despite increased interest in this area of research, a variety of questions remain as to how women experience incarceration. Most women who are incarcerated are mothers, but few criminologists have explored how imprisonment affects motherhood and mothers’ perception of the mother-child relationship during incarceration. The research presented here contributes to this body of literature by exploring the effects of confinement on motherhood and on the incarcerated mothers’ perception of mother-child relationships, focusing on how incarcerated mothers navigate the barriers to successful mother child-relationships. Data from this study come from qualitative interviews with mothers serving time in four jails in eastern and central Kentucky. Findings from this research expand upon the literature on incarcerated mothers and mother-child relationships and may provide a stimulus for further research and the development of programs related to the improving relationships among incarcerated mothers and their children.