This study investigated the experiences of incarcerated fathers, their perceptions of fatherhood, and the nature of their involvement with their children. Fifty-one incarcerated fathers confined at two minimum security correctional facilities were interviewed approximately one month prior to their release from prison. A qualitative content analysis revealed detailed description pertaining to participants' feelings of helplessness and the difficulties of being a "good father" while in prison. Incarceration represented a dormant period for men in terms of fatherhood, and reentry signified an opportunity to "start over" with their children. Finally, father involvement was profoundly constrained during incarceration, and men were entirely dependent on nonincarcerated mothers or caregivers for contact with children. Many fathers perceived mothers' gatekeeping, or efforts to prevent contact, as evidence of their powerlessness. Recommendations for future research and intervention are discussed. (Author abstract).
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