Disrupted Mothering: Narratives of Mothers in Prison

Marginalized Mothers, Mothering from the Margins

ISBN: 978-1-78756-400-8, eISBN: 978-1-78756-399-5

ISSN: 1529-2126

Publication date: 15 November 2018


Imprisonment can severely alter, disrupt, or even terminate mothering. Yet, often seen by society as giving up on or abandoning their children, women in prison tend to invoke less empathy or tolerance than women whose mothering is disrupted through other means, such as illness. Therefore, while many women in prison attach great significance to the role and responsibilities of motherhood, the restrictions of the prison environment impacting the ability to participate in mothering, compounded by a sense of guilt, failure, stigma, shame, and role strain can pose a direct threat to mothering identities of women in prison. Central to the research from which this chapter has developed was the challenge of making sense of the constructed meaning of motherhood for women in prison. Drawing on feminist narrative approaches, significance is placed not only on the content of stories but equally on the social role of the story told (Plummer, 1995). Three key and interrelated narratives are highlighted: “Difficult Disclosures,” “Double-edged Sword,” and “Negotiating Care.” This chapter concludes by considering the implications of the research for policy and practice and how through exploring the stories of mothers in prison we are able to hear about and value a diversity of mothers’ lives, so that these mothers do not have to inhabit the margins of motherhood.



Lockwood, K. (2018), "Disrupted Mothering: Narratives of Mothers in Prison", Taylor, T. and Bloch, K. (Ed.) Marginalized Mothers, Mothering from the Margins (Advances in Gender Research, Vol. 25), Emerald Publishing Limited, pp. 157-173. https://doi.org/10.1108/S1529-212620180000025010

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