A Timely Convergence: Understanding and Supporting the Desistance-Potential of Fatherhood among Young Offenders

UoM administered thesis: Phd


This thesis analyses findings from a predominantly qualitative study of young (aged 18 to 24) imprisoned fathers interviewed in prison shortly before release, some of whom were also followed into the community. The research focused on the experiences of these men in prison, and how being a young father in prison affected their attitudes to offending, fatherhood and the future. Furthermore, this work investigated how these men then reintegrated back into the community and whether they managed to fulfil their hopes for change, focussing on what factors helped or hindered this process. This research applies desistance theory and identity theory to the lived experience of young imprisoned fathers; a group that has been largely ignored in previous research. The work is informed by both social-psychological (Maruna, 2001; Farrall, 2002; Meek, 2007a) and sociological perspectives (Laub and Sampson, 2003). This thesis adds to knowledge about the process of change for young offending fathers, highlighting it to be a gradual and active process that draws on both internal and external influences. Change is a complex activity, especially for men with transient relationships and lifestyles, which relies on the fragile coincidence of many inter-connected factors. Due to the instability of many of these factors, it is a process characterised by successes and failures. This thesis argues that criminal justice policies need to support fatherhood to take full advantage of fatherhood's desistance-potential. The findings provide evidence to support Maruna et al's (2004a) description of a three track process of change, requiring self-determination, formal support and informal support. They also suggest the need for the additional important factors of identity transformation (Maruna, 2001; Paternoster and Bushway, 2009) in positive social and personal contexts (Farrall, 2002; Walker, 2010). Fatherhood adds an additional layer to these factors. This thesis also contributes to knowledge of how agency and structural factors interact.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date1 Aug 2015