Growing up with parental imprisonment: children’s experiences of managing stigma, secrecy and shame

Maria McGinley, Christine Jones

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    3 Citations (Scopus)
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    Each year, parental imprisonment affects approximately 27,000 children and young people in Scotland. Research that focuses on the views and experiences of the children and young people affected by parental imprisonment has highlighted the dominance of stigma, secrecy and shame in the lives of such children. This paper reports the findings of a small-scale qualitative study which sought the accounts of six young people aged between 13 and 26 whose biological father was, or had been, imprisoned. The paper explores the impact of stigma on day-to-day experiences in childhood and on the emotional and social wellbeing of young people. Young people described this in terms of growing up too fast and revealed ways in which they managed these adversities. Overwhelmingly the young people displayed considerable resilience in the face of extreme challenges and were able to identify positive outcomes of parental imprisonment such as personal growth. In order to promote resilience, we identify a need for public education to challenge social stigma; training for families in selective disclosure and supportive relationships for children.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)341-357
    Number of pages17
    JournalPractice: Social Work in Action
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - 14 Mar 2018


    • parental imprisonment
    • stigma
    • shame
    • family secrets
    • children of prisoners


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