"motherhood starts in prison": The experience of motherhood among women in prison

Michal Shamai, Rinat Billy Kochal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study aims to explore the way in which women prisoners in Israel experience motherhood in prison and construct their motherhood after being released. In-depth interviews were conducted with 9 women, and the data were analyzed according to the phenomenological approach. The qualitative methodology generated 5 main themes: (a) motherhood in prison as a motive for survival; (b) the sense of failure experienced by mothers in prison; (c) coping versus avoidance in the mother-child relationship during imprisonment; (d) motherhood in prison as a motive for change; and (e) the transition from questioning the right to be a mother to redeeming motherhood. The 5 themes were organized into a model that depicts the process of becoming a mother in prison and the move toward mending the experience of motherhood. The findings indicate that side by side with the traumatic experiences of prison are other aspects that allow for growth and rehabilitation. The discussion focuses on 2 main issues that evolved from the findings: the reasons for the change in motherhood that occurs during imprisonment and the aspects of prison that enable this change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)323-340
Number of pages18
JournalFamily Process
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2008


  • Motherhood
  • Motherhood in prison
  • Prison
  • Women in prison

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Social Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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