Swallow, Amanda (2010) Children of prisoners: Virtual communities negotiating and managing relationships, isolation and stigma. In: Personal and Public Lives: Exploring Relationships, Roles, and Responsibilities Conference, 7-9 September 2010, University of Huddersfield. (Unpublished)

There is a general consensus amongst the relatively few current researchers that there are negative effects upon children who experience parental imprisonment. Effects highlighted by previous research include experiences of trauma, mental health issues and an increased risk of expressing anti-social behaviour, amongst others. This issue remains largely hidden in the public sphere, which can lead to stigma and social exclusion. The number of children who experience parental imprisonment each year is unknown within England and Wales; currently estimated at 150,000. There is no single statutory body dedicated to the care, welfare or support of these children.

With increases in virtual communities there are now Internet websites specifically tailored to and available for the families and children of prisoners. This paper presents initial findings from a qualitative content analysis of discussion threads from such a website. Reasons for using this method are that children of prisoners are a diverse and difficult to reach social group. They may also be unwilling to discuss their ‘lived experiences’ with those they may perceive as official/authoritative figures. This method of passive analysis allows for unobtrusive access to this social group, consequently ethical issues are significantly reduced.

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