Research project to explore men’s experience of childhood with an imprisoned father

Research project to explore men's experience of childhood with an imprisoned father

Psychologists at Trinity College Dublin have launched a new research project exploring the experience of growing up with an imprisoned father.

The study, being undertaken by a small team of researchers in the School of Psychology, Trinity College Dublin, will explore the experience of male children and the effect of imprisonment on their relationships with their father, a rarely examined area of research within an Irish context.

Lead researcher Senan Tuohy-Hamill, a student on the doctoral programme in clinical psychology, said: “Many studies look at the impact of maternal incarceration on children. Other studies look at the impact of the absence of the father on the family as a whole.

“This study will exclusively look at the experience of the male child and the meaning-making that sons engage in, while reflecting on their childhood experiences.

“Our study will highlight the unique impact of growing up as a boy with a father in prison. We know that imprisonment not only affects the person in custody; it has wider effects that may ripple across and through the lives of those close to them, including their sons.

“This study will capture the voice of these boys, now men, in the present day. The findings will add to our current understanding of the long-term effects of paternal incarceration.”

The research team are looking to recruit participants, men aged over 25 years, who have experienced the absence of their father during childhood due to imprisonment.

The study will consist of a series of in-depth interviews with a small number of participants, to facilitate a deep exploration and thorough understanding of this unique experience.

It will examine a previously un-examined aspect of the imprisonment experience, namely the father-son relationship, as experienced during childhood and beyond this into adulthood. The study seeks to understand these experiences with a focus on the developing mind, emotional states, and the kinds of losses that may be involved in this process.

Assistant professor in clinical psychology Dr John O’Connor, who is supervising the work, added: “This study aims shed fresh light on the breadth and depth of the experience of growing up in the context of such a key absence in the person’s life and with the circumstances surrounding it.

“We are keen to provide an open space in this multiple interview approach to give participants a scope for exploring what is perhaps well thought-through and what may emerge beyond this also.”

Share icon
Share this article: