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Life-Course Perspective Behind Bars: Reflections on Interviewing Incarcerated Fathers

By: & Published: 2018 | Product: SAGE Research Methods Cases Part 2
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The reflections offered here are a result of interviews of incarcerated fathers (n° = 63) by two researchers collected over a 2-year time frame. The study was part of a Bureau of Justice Assistance grant (BJA#2010-2700) and exposed trauma as a critical factor in understanding and responding to the needs of male inmates at high risk for repeat incarceration. Although the literature is rife with evidence of past trauma and its effects on incarcerated women, little attention to trauma is given to men with similar adverse experiences. In this case study, the researchers explain how they conducted the interviews using Fathered-to-Fathering Maps, a narrative and visual life-mapping tool, that allowed the men to tell their own life stories and in their own way. This tool provided the researchers with a unique opportunity to unearth how trauma shaped the participants’ lives, which was not something they were looking for! Recognizing the need for men to tell their own stories with this qualitative, organic approach underscores the importance of using a gender-sensitive, life-course perspective that can help the fathers examine their lives in a deeply personal format. Often these men were unaware of the trauma embedded in their life-course trajectories. As demonstrated here, interviewing and life history mapping is an important research tool, and these findings delivered evidence for new programming in the correctional facilities to support the men in addressing their adverse life experiences and thereby reducing their risk of repeat incarceration.

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Life history research

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