Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: Mother-infant separation in prison : problematising attachment theory in policy and practice
Author: Powell, Claire
ISNI:       0000 0004 7659 6154
Awarding Body: Middlesex University
Current Institution: Middlesex University
Date of Award: 2018
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Access from Institution:
Women in prison assert that separation from their children is one of the most traumatic aspects of their imprisonment (Corston, 2007; Douglas, Plugge & Fitzpatrick, 2009; IAP, 2017). This thesis considers mother-child separations in English prisons from the perspectives of mothers and prison staff, alongside a critical examination of the use of attachment theory in prison policy and practice. Using a critical realist approach, this mixed-methods study integrates qualitatively analysed semi-structured interviews with a practitioner survey and document analyses. A focus on attachment theory enables a multi-perspective view of an overlooked group of prisoners and proposes relevant policy and practice applications. Study of policy and related literature reveals a consensus that separation from children for imprisoned mothers is traumatic. However, no detail is offered about how mothers should be supported. Interviews with six attachment experts and a survey of 30 family practitioners uncovered a range of critiques of current prison practice supposedly based on attachment theory, in particular the focus on a 'best age' of separation. Interviews with six previously imprisoned mothers highlighted the importance of the wider context, especially external childcare, with regards to their experience of separation. Open prisons were viewed as enabling access to services and the most positive relationships with staff. Interviews with 24 prison staff emphasised the challenges of working with separated mothers, specifically the emotional impact of this type of work, and the difficulties of working with social services. Focusing on the understanding and practice of attachment theory revealed its limitations and problematises its use in prison policy, including critiques of Mother Baby Units. It is proposed that future practice and research should be underpinned by partnership with social work in order to inform best practice, whilst a human rights-based approach with enforceable minimum standards would mitigate some of the harm caused by mother-child separation.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available