The effect of prison on children’s Psychological development
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Imprisonment of parents causes many hardships for children. Children of incarcerated mothers usually experience disruptions in their home environments and child care arrangements and they usually also experience social stigmatisation. According to Senanayake et al (2001), the prison environment is not a conducive environment for children to grow in. Senanayake et al explains that although children who accompany their mothers in prison do not experience adverse effects of separation from their primary care givers, they are exposed to conditions that affect their emotional, social and cognitive development. The sample consisted of 34 children with their mothers. 17 children were incarcerated with their mothers and 17 children were not incarcerated with their mothers. There were 19 girls (10 were incarcerated with their mothers 9 were not), and 15 boys (7 were incarcerated with their mothers and 8 were not). The incarcerated children were matched in demographic characteristics with the non incarcerated children. The Parent version of the strength and difficulties questionnaire (SDQ; Goodman, 2005) was used to get information on the psychological effects of prison on children. This assessment tool was adapted for this study and was used to assess children's emotional adjustment, social conduct and interaction with peers. The SON-R 2.5-7 (Tellegen & Laros, 1993) was used to measure the cognitive ability of the children. The test consists of 7 subtests which are mainly focused on visual-spatial abilities and abstract and concrete reasoning. The SON-R has been used in Zambia before. The researcher administered the self-rated SDQ to the mothers since some had difficulties in reading. (They were not fluent in the reading of the English Language.) The SON-R 2.5-7 was administered to the children. Qualitative data was collected through informal discussions with the mothers and the prison warders.The results of the total difficulties score showed that there was a significant difference in the prevalence of behavioral problems between incarcerated children and non incarcerated children. There was a high prevalence of psychological difficulties among children incarcerated with their mothers compared to those that were not. A one-way ANOVA was done to find out if there was a significant difference between the means of the two groups, incarcerated children and the non-incarcerated indicated that there was a significant difference between the incarcerated children and the non-incarcerated on cognitive development.Child incarceration is an obstacle to children's psychological and social development and their future prospects. All children, regardless of social and economic status, are entitled to enjoy their childhood years and to grow up fully and naturally. Isolation from the outside world as well as from friends and family prevents incarcerated children from learning to function fully in society and interact with others.To my daughter, Stephannie and my late parents, Lawrence and Stephannie you have inspired me to reach for greater heights.