The strains of maternal imprisonment: Importation and deprivation stressors for women and children Academic Article uri icon


  • Purpose: This study links General Strain Theory, criminal justice models of inmate adaptation, and life course stress models to examine (1) the influence of importation and deprivation strains on maternal health while imprisoned; and (2) the intergenerational consequences of maternal strains for child outcomes. Methods: Qualitative and quantitative data were gathered from an incarcerated sample of mothers in a Federal prison (n. =. 120). Qualitative data were used to identify strains in mothers' lives. Multivariate quantitative analyses were also conducted to test the associations of maternal importation and deprivation strains with maternal health problems and child subjective weathering, or a sense of growing up faster than one's peers. Results: The deprivation strain of a lack of contact with the mother's minor child is positively associated with her mental and physical health problems and children's subjective weathering. Maternal importation strains in the form of childhood traumas also increase mental health problems and subjective weathering. Conclusions: This study finds that maternal deprivation and importation strains are associated with mother and child adjustment. Reducing strains mothers face while imprisoned may benefit both inmates and families. Furthermore, deprivation strains are influential net of pre-imprisonment stressors. 2012 Elsevier Ltd.

published proceedings

  • Journal of Criminal Justice

altmetric score

  • 1

author list (cited authors)

  • Foster, H.

citation count

  • 53

complete list of authors

  • Foster, Holly

publication date

  • January 2012