Detrimental Aspects of Prison for Incarcerated Mothers

Detrimental Aspects of Prison for Incarcerated Mothers

Separation from their children can be one of the most detrimental aspects of prison for incarcerated mothers and fathers (Arditti, Smock, & Parkman, 2005; Clark, 1995; Houck & Loper, 2002; Meek, 2007b). According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) (2000) it is estimated that 1.3 million children have a mother who is incarcerated and 2.1 million children have a father who is incarcerated. However, 84% of single family households are headed by single mothers (LePoire, 2006). More specifically, 46% of mothers in state prison and 51.3% of mothers in federal prison live in a single parent household (BJS, 200). Incarcerated mothers are also more likely than incarcerated fathers to be the only parent to live with their children a month prior to their arrest (BJS, 2000;). In this instance mothers not only are responsible for the traditional roles but also the father’s role expectations which include economic contributions and authority (LePoire, 2006). And unlike male offenders, whose children typically stay with their birth mother after incarceration, 52.9% of children of female offenders live with grandparents while the mother is incarcerated (BJS, 2000; Sharp, 2003). Due to the absence and lack of support from fathers incarcerated women are at a disadvantage when it comes to parenting as a single mother. Correctional programs, either in prison or in the community, have been unable to meet the parenting needs of female offenders (Austin, Bloom, & Donahue, 1992). This may also hold true for male offenders, however, the stereotype of a “good mother” places a significant amount of stress on the incarcerated woman’s identity (Arditti, Smock, & Parkman, 2005; Clark, 1995; Meek, 2007a; Meek, 2007b; Sharp, 2003).

This motherhood identity compels more than three quarters of the 91,612 incarcerated women attempt to maintain contact with their children by means of telephone and standard mail (BJS, 2000; Sharp, 2003). However, in most instances, contact is lost and relationship between mothers and their children is compromised (Clark, 1995). Separation from their children has the ability to affect the behavior of women as parents, Houck and Loper (2002) found that incarcerated mother’s stress was related to their self-perceived skill and competence as parents. Newly released women face barriers such as behavioral problems, inability to discipline effectively, and aggression that seem insurmountable in relation to readapting to community life and once again becoming an active parent (Clark, 1995; Sharp, 2003). By studying incarcerated mothers we can learn what they need to communicate more effectively and we can give them the communication skills they need to succeed as parents.

Therefore, this research will use the interpersonal skills deficiency model (Infante, Chandler, & Rudd, 1989) to examine mother-child interactions in hopes of identifying what the most difficult aspects of parenting during separation due to incarceration are. Variables of interest are incarcerated mothers’ attitudes toward their parent-child relationship, incarcerated mothers’ socio-communicative and parenting styles, verbal aggression, and mother-child conflict interactions. This study could possibly provide recommendations for improving parenting communication for incarcerated women during separation and as they prepare to reenter the family setting. Sandifer (2008) identified benefits of parenting programs for inmates such as reduced recidivism, improved social and interpersonal skills, aiding mental health, and delinquency prevention. Kennon, Mackintosh, and Myers (2009) also found that women who participated in their parenting class exhibited a change in parenting attitudes, self-esteem, and legal knowledge. Therefore, learning these communication styles may assist mothers in achieving their ultimate goal of unification with their children. This skilled approach will help prevent future problems involving divided families and destructive patterns of behavior (Sandifer, 2008).

“Children are the unseen victims of a mother’s incarceration” (Clark, 1995, p.307); women and their children are an undiscovered population that is often forgotten. Children are at risk of suffering depression, exhibiting aggressive behavior, showing signs of trouble in academic progress, and problems having future relationships with others including their mothers (Hanlon, Carswell, & Rose, 2007). These children are also at a higher likelihood for repeating the same behavior of their parents (Austin, Bloom, & Donahue, 1992). Reestablishing a relationship with their mother alleviates the threat of the consequences that a child experiences when their mother is incarcerated.

The incarcerated mother, whose crimes typically consist of drug offenses and fraud, also suffers upon reentry to her family, and the parent child relationship (BJS, 2000). Women who are incarcerated often lack the ability to handle stress, anger, and frustration (Clark, 1995; Sorbello, Eccleston, Ward, & Jones, 2002). In addition, the prison environment itself often exacerbates the already disproportionate intense emotions and inability to tolerate stress in female offenders (Clark, 1995). Also, McCurdy (2005) found that changes in stress and support exerted the most significant effect on change in potential child abuse. These negative feelings of stress, anger, and frustration are often then manifested in their behaviors toward their children (Sorbello, Eccleston, Ward, & Jones, 2002). Similarly, Cupach, Canary, & Spitzberg (2010) argue that feelings of anger may arise from goal frustration present in conflict episodes.

Parenting, therefore, is clearly a context for these emotions and behaviors to be activated and it thus becomes critical for these mothers to have appropriate skills to address one’s emotions (Houck & Loper, 2002). Women inmates have few coping strategies to deal with their anger, thus putting them at risk for acting out in inappropriate, aggressive parenting styles (Crump, 1995). Without intervention, the parent-child relationship would likely breakdown. An interpersonal skill deficiency model (Infante, Chandler, & Rudd, 1989) framework that bridges parent communication skills especially in anger management and conflict resolution will provide a framework for repairing the family structure. Specifically women who use constructive communication behaviors during times of anger and stress will potentially decrease interpersonal violence, change the dynamic of the relationship between mother and child, and potentially increase the relationship ties. In order to bridge this communication gap between mother and child relational research is needed, on this unique population, to assess the attitudes toward the parent-child relationship, identify the mother’s socio-communicative and parenting styles, the mother’s use of verbally aggressive messages, and discover a list of critical parenting communication issues present in mother-child interactions, especially during conflict.

This study will use an interpersonal skills deficiency model (Infante, Chandler, & Rudd, 1989) to offer an in-depth examination of the role of mother-child everyday interactions between recently incarcerated mothers and their children. After all, Duncan’s (1967) well known phrase “we do not relate than talk, but we relate in talk” (p. 249) indicates that our relationships are defined by our communication. This project will use an interpersonal communication perspective to examine the incarcerated mother-child relationship and address valuable issues and needs of both parties such as parenting, supportive behaviors, competencies or socio-communicative orientation, and compliance gaining strategies. The purpose of this study is to use the interpersonal skills deficiency model (Infante, Chandler, & Rudd, 1989) to examine and assess the incarcerated mother’s attitudes toward the parent-child relationship, identify the mother’s socio-communicative style, and discover a list of critical parenting communication issues especially during conflict.

Literature Review:
Interpersonal Skills Deficiency Model
Theoretical Framework
This research will argue from an interpersonal communication deficiency model (Infante, Chandler, & Rudd, 1989) that parent’s persuasive messages and their response to their children’s resistance messages are critical to relational communication competency. The interpersonal skill deficiency model of family violence suggests that verbal aggression is used when more constructive skills for dealing with conflict such as constructive skills are lacking (Infante & Wigley, 1986). Constructive strategies and messages involve presenting and defending one’s position in parenting, where as verbal aggression attacks the child’s self-concept rather than, or in addition to, the child’s position (Infante & Wigley, 1986). Types of verbally aggressive messages identified by Infante & Wigley (1986) are character attacks, threats, competence attacks, malediction, insults, teasing , ridicule, profanity, and nonverbal emblems. These messages make the child feel less favorably about themselves (Infante & Wigley, 1986).

It is also noted that people may respond with physical force because they lack alternative social skills due to the relationship between physical and verbal aggression (Bandura, 1973). Many studies have demonstrated that verbal aggressiveness can lead to violence in family relationships (Infante, Chandler, & Rudd, 1989; Infante, Sabourin, Rudd, & Shannon, 1990; Rudd, Beatty, Vogl-Bauer, & Dobos, 1997; Sabourin, Infante, & Rudd, 1993;). For example, in Infante, Chandler, & Rudd’s (1989) study of abusive relationships indicated that the individuals in abusive relationships were less argumentative and more verbally aggressive than non-abusive relationships. They also found that verbal aggression was a catalyst to physical violence (Infante, Chandler, & Rudd, 1989). In a longitudinal study, Benzies, Keown, and Magill-Evans (2009) found that hostile/aggressive/ineffective parenting has an immediate effect on aggression prior to any evidence of aggressive behavior in the child. Thompson, Christensen, et. al. (1999) identified a cluster of parents who were at high risk of child abuse and neglect citing that these harsh or abusive parents were more likely to use verbal abuse, endorse physical punishment, devalue children, and use physical coercive discipline strategies. Infante, Sabourin, Rudd & Shannon (1990) also found evidence to suggest that according to the skills deficiency model, verbal aggression is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for relationship violence.

The study of parent-child communication relationships has recently received communication scholar’s attention. Rudd, Vogl-Bauer, Dobos, Beatty & Valencic (1998) examined parents’ trait verbal aggressiveness and frustration in response to anger produced from interactions with their children. During a child’s noncompliance their hypothesis was supported that parents’ trait verbal aggressiveness and high frustration levels produced anger states. Furthermore, trait verbal aggressiveness is most strongly related to anger during highly frustrating situations. Therefore, the more trait verbally aggressive a parent is the more likely frustration will turn into anger. The effect this has on children consequently is that they may come to expect anger as an acceptable response to noncompliance.

The role of father-son relationships has been examined in relation to communication competency, and similar assumptions can be made to mother-child relationships. The definition of communication competency involves appropriateness and effectiveness. Effectiveness refers to the accomplishment of relatively desirable and or preferred outcomes while appropriateness refers to the individual’s ability to act in a manner that is fitting to the context, thereby avoiding the violation of valued rules, expectancy, or norms (Spitzberg, 1994, p.31). In Beatty, Burant, Dobos, & Rudd, (1996) it was found that fathers who were high in verbal aggressiveness were likely to be less appropriate than other father’s plans. The verbally aggressive fathers were also less aware of other effective plans (Beatty, Burant, Dobos, & Rudd, 1996) which is indicative of the skills deficiency model. Rudd, Beatty, Vogl-Bauer, & Dobs (1997) also found evidence that the higher the instance of trait verbal aggressiveness the lower the rating of tactics such as “establishing dialogue and working on the relationship and the higher the rating of coercive tactics” (p. 389). Here too the plans of the fathers were less effective and appropriate (Rudd, Beatty, Vogl-Bauer, & Dobos, 1997).

Cupach, Canary, and Sptizberg (2010) state that studying interpersonal conflict helps individuals improve their expertise. The issue is not that one will change the persuasive resistance interaction but rather provide constructive message strategies for parents to facilitate these challenging situations, whereas avoidance and aggressive behaviors perpetuate the destructive cycle of relational development. Some argue this is perhaps the most difficult communication problem that is often faced in parent-child communication and has long-term effects on children, well into adulthood. Also, by not modeling effective and healthy conflict behaviors, mothers risk passing on these destructive communication patterns to their children who in turn will perpetuate these behaviors in later relationships (Messman & Canary, 1998).

Mother-Child Communication
The mother’s role in communication is continually guiding and directing children’s behavior that hopefully results in productive adults. Mothers are responsible for physical, emotional, intellectual and social development of their children (LePoire, 2006). Huston and Holmes (2004) discovered that communication with the new infant accompanies the successful completion of just about every task associated with nurturing and care giving. Mothers are especially responsible for the traditional nurturer role and tasks, completing around 80% of the routine tasks such as changing diapers, feeding, soothing, bathing, and teaching (Huston & Holmes, 2004). Mothers therefore are the major source of care and communication with the child. This is consistent with role theory which states that mothers are most often and most likely to be the nurtures of the family (LePoire, 2006). Mothers are viewed as more and understanding and accepting, adolescents report talking more with their mothers than fathers and also show a tendency to share their feelings with their mothers over their fathers (Steinberg & Silk, 2002; Youniss & Smoller, 1985). Adolescents are also more likely to compromise with their mothers than fathers during conflict (Smetana, Yau, & Hanson, 1991; Vuchinich, 1987).

Two primary communicative functions in families are nurturing and control. Nurturing communication is communication that encourages the social, emotional and intellectual development of children (LePoire, 2006). Controlling communication involves limiting the options and behaviors of children. Controlling communication has a positive developmental aspect and a dark side of conflict, influence, and even violence (LePoire, 2006). Mothers are responsible for both nurturing and control aspects of parenting (LePoire, 2006).

The Incarcerated Mother
Many incarcerated mothers find this role as one of the few positive roles they can fulfill and loss of this nurturing maternal role can have negative consequences on their stability (Clark, 1995; Shamai & Kochal, 2008; Sharp, 2003). Some positive aspects of motherhood for women in prison identified by Shamai and Kochal (2008) were motherhood as a coping strategy and a motive for change. However, Houck and Loper (2002) found that while incarcerated many mothers feel considerable amounts of distress around their skill and competency as a parent since it is difficult to provide care while separated. For instance, Clark (1995) recognizes that women can no longer even provide for the day-to-day activities, needs, or decisions of their children. Ardetti and Few (2008) also identify children as a source of relational distress for incarcerated mothers producing feelings of anxiety and depression. Concerns about leaving and re-entry, regrets and worry, effects of incarceration on their children, and care for their children while they are separated were all indicators of maternal distress (Ardetti & Few, 2008).

Clark (1995) identifies ways in which the prison environment helped simultaneously improve and damage the mother-child relationship. Many women admit that their relationship with their children before incarceration was difficult but that prison helped save them from drugs and other destructive behaviors that influenced their ability to parent. The ways in which these women talk about their parenting however is based on “the good mother myth” (Clark, 1995, p. 322) which fosters guilt and denial. Many incarcerated mothers communicate only the good things about them and their children leaving out the other problems in order to combat her only guilt and shame (Clark, 1995). This may be ways in which incarcerated mothers, like other mothers, try to maintain a “good mother face” for acceptance and approval from others (Heisler & Butler Ellis, 2008). However, while in prison many women are able to try and understand and identify ways of improving their relationship with their children and that the separation has in some ways improved their relationship (Clark, 1995; Shamai & Kochal, 2008). This is not done without negative emotions, a sense of loss, guilt, self-blame, and self-pity are often evident in the process of coming to terms with separation. Shamai & Kochal (2008) recognized that in some cases these emotions become over powering and mothers in prison choose to not continue contact with their children while in prison.

Incarcerated mothers maintain communication while separated through standard mail, telephone calls, and visits ( BJS, 2000; Houck & Loper, 2002; Sharp 2003). Sixty percent of mothers in state prison and 70% in federal prison report some contact with their children on a weekly basis with mail being the most common followed by telephone (BJS, 2000). The use of telephones to maintain contact however has its limitations, for instance, telephone calls are expensive for mothers and their families, also telephone privileges may need to be earned and restricted (Sharp, 2003). Houck & Loper (2003) found that mothers who had less contact with their children felt they had less of an influence and reported higher emotional and physical distress. Communication between mother and child is important because maintaining family relationships while separated is a stronger predictor better mental health, increased self-esteem, and of reduced recidivism (Clark, 1995; Hairston, 1991; Sharp, 2003).

Parenting Styles and Attitudes
Identifying parenting styles provides a strong argument for measuring attitudes toward the mother-child relationship. An individual’s attitude toward parenting and their relationship with their child may be affected by which parenting style they use. Or their parenting style could be affected by their attitude toward parenting and their relationship with their child. Attitudes measured by this study will include parental support (emotional and social support), satisfaction with parenting (amount of pleasure and fulfillment), parental involvement (interaction with and knowledge of child), communication (perception of communication effectiveness), limit setting (experiences with discipline), autonomy (promote child independence), and role orientation (parenting gender roles) (Gerard, 2005).

Baumrind (1966) identifies three types of parenting styles, authoritative parents, permissive parents, and authoritarian parents. Authoritative parents balance high nurturance and high control (Baumrind, 1966). Children of authoritative parents have been found to exhibit better conflict management and social skills than children of other types of parents (Steinberg, 2001). In addition, children and adolescents of authoritative parents have been found to be socially responsible and independent, affiliative, self-reliant, explorative, realistic, competent, and content (Baumrind, 1971). Authoritative parents may therefore score high on attitudes towards parental support, satisfaction with parenting, parental involvement, communication, limit setting, and autonomy because of the positive child outcomes associated with authoritative parents.

Authoritarian parents are strict and lack warmth and typically use harsh discipline styles, they are more concerned with control than nurturance (Baumrind, 1966; Brody, 1998). Dix, Ruble and Zambarano (1989) reported that mothers with authoritarian parenting ideologies prefer power- assertive discipline strategies. Children of authoritarian parents were found to be more discontent, withdrawn and distrustful, more insecure and apprehensive, less affiliative, and more likely to be aggressive under stress (Baumrind, 1967). In addition, children and adolescents of authoritarian parents reported more conflict with their parents and lower self-esteem (Amanat & Butler, 1984; Baumrind, 1967, 1971; Buri et. al., 1988; Halpin, Halpin, & Whiddon, 1980; Lamborn et. al., 1991). Thompson, Hollis, and Richards (2003) found a linear relationship between maternal approval of authoritarian parenting attitudes and higher rates of conduct problems at age 5 and 10. Grolnick, Price, Beiswenger, and Sauck (2007) discovered that moms with controlling parental attitudes were significantly more likely to give answers to their children, spend more time talking, be rated as more controlling by observers, and less likely to offer feedback than mothers with supportive behaviors during a play interaction with their children. This identifies specific communication behaviors exhibited by parents with a high need for control. Mothers with an authoritarian parenting style may have lower attitudes toward parental support because they lack social support and therefore may have to be more controlling in order to be seen as respected. They may also score lower on the autonomy scale limiting their child’s independence. Mothers with this style may also be more liberal in their role orientation and exhibit more masculine parenting qualities or attitudes.

Permissive parents lack control and effective monitoring by either neglecting or indulging their children (Baumrin, 1966). Permissive parents are high responsiveness/warmth and low demanding/control (Maccoby & Martin, 1983). Children and adolescents of permissive parents have been found to exhibit a lack of self-control and self-reliance, higher school conflicts, poor academic performance, low self esteem and higher parental conflict (Baumrind, 1967; Eskilson et. al., 1986; Lamborn et. al., 1991). Mothers with a permissive parenting style may score low on the limit setting scale and communication scale because they lack the ability to effectively discipline their children.

Clark (1995) argues that many incarcerated women turn to an authoritarian parenting style because many of these same mothers are “kids” themselves. These women are insecure and ashamed and act out in a strict, high control manner in order to compensate for their inadequacies. Many of these women may even condemn similar behaviors in their children that they themselves have struggled with. On the other hand, Surratt (2003) found support for incarcerated drug-users positive parenting attitudes, she did not find a significant relationship between incarcerated mothers expressing overly controlling or punitive attitudes toward their children. Another way to look at the relationship between mother and child is as siblings rather than parent-child (Clark, 1995). Grella and Greenwell (2006) investigated parental attitudes of substance using women offenders and found that they were at a greater risk of scoring high on the role reversal scale which indicates a lack of the appropriate clarification between parent and child. Incarcerated women identify with the powerlessness and frustration that many of their children face. It is also difficult to help set rules and limits on their children when the mothers themselves also have problems following rules and limits themselves. However, Clark (1995) states that the use of parallel experiences can be useful when communicating with their children. Many women find it difficult to answer the complicated questions and feelings their children are dealing with but if they do Clark (1995) argues that one of the most important things incarcerated mothers can give their children is “the truth of their own lives” (p. 318).
According to Baumrind (1966) parenting style may affect which strategies are used during conflict. Hartos, Eitel, Haynie, and Simons-Morton (2000) identified communication practices used by highly demanding parents and highly responsive parents. Highly demanding parents use monitoring, control and restrictions whereas highly responsive parents use warmth, reciprocal responses, clear and person centered communication, and an atmosphere that encourages secure attachment styles (Hartos, Eitel, Haynie, & Simons-Morton, 2000). Bayer & Cegala’s (1992) study of trait verbal aggressiveness and argumentativeness and parenting style also lends support to the notion that different parenting styles may use different strategies during conflict. They found that the most verbally aggressive parenting style is the authoritarian parent who tends to attack the self concept of others, whereas the authoritative parent tends to avoid using personal attacks and be more argumentative.

Through interpersonal conflict mothers can teach their children how to recognize other’s feelings, how to clarify their own and others intentions, how to understand social roles of behavior, and constructive strategies for obtaining one’s goals (Dunn & Slomkowksi, 1992). To do this, incarcerated mothers need to have the skills to promote their own agency and autonomy in order to play a positive role in their own children’s development (Clark, 1995). Grella & Greenwall (2006) found that women who reported higher self-efficacy and greater decision making ability was associated with less risky parental attitudes such as appropriate expectations, empathy, corporal punishment, and power and independence.

Parenting Communication Strategies & Conflict
An overwhelming amount of parenting communication is persuasive communication. As one can expect persuasion is often met with resistance. Some of the earliest experiences one has with conflict are as a child. Conflict between parent and child begins early and often (Cupach, Canary, & Spitzberg, 2010). Dunn and Munn (1987) studied mother-toddler interactions and found that in each hour of observation 7-8 conflicts were recorded with an average of 3-4 conflicts in an hour. In a study of children, age 5-9, it was found that persuasion was met over half the time with children’s resistance (Eiesnberg, 1992). Although Eiesnberg (1992) found that most conflicts with young children are brief and lack negative feelings constant resistance and conflict can lead parents to feelings of frustration and anger and if handled inappropriately it can lead to aggression and violence. Therefore, Straus (1979) argues that it is not necessarily the frequency of conflict in relationships but how individuals communicate during conflict episodes.

Social learning theory supports the notion that children model their parent’s behaviors; this includes conflict behaviors (Bandura, 1977). Martin and Anderson’s (1997) study of young adults and their parents argumentativeness, assertiveness and verbal aggressiveness also found support for social cognitive theory finding similarities between mother and child (both sons and daughters) aggressive communication. More specifically, children whose mothers exhibited high constructive communication traits also reported similar ability to communicate without being verbally aggressive. Consequently, children whose mothers reported verbal aggressiveness reported being verbally aggressive. Anderson and Rancer (2007) found that incarcerated youth males responded to hypothetical conflict situations most often with physical aggression followed by verbal aggression to achieve their goals. Furthermore, this suggests that the more rewards one observes from t his type of communication the more likely they will to employ it and continue with a destructive conflict-management.

The power differential between parent and child is extremely evident during conflict situations (Eisenburg, 1992). While using discipline and compliance gaining strategies a struggle for control may emerge between mother and child (Steinmetz, 1977; Wilson & Morgan, 2004). This power struggle may be especially evident between parents and adolescent children, Montemayer (1986) found that 20-25% of families with adolescent children experiences disagreement that may have emotional and psychological implications. Similarly, Padilla-Walker (2008) found a positive relationship between mothers’ use of power assertion and negative emotions in adolescents. The use of forceful discipline may depend on child’s competency and a more power assertion is yielded when a mother believes the child should “know better” (Dix, Ruble, & Zambarano, 1989). A specific communication pattern between parent and child involves discipline styles of reinforcement and punishment. Reinforcement strengthens the behavior and punishing halts or strives to change the behavior. Reinforcements can be positive or negative, positive reinforcement follows the behavior with a reward or positive outcome whereas, negative reinforcement follows the behavior with the removal of a negative stimulus (LePoire, 2006). Punishment on the other hand is the application of a negative stimulus in response to a negative behavior (LePoire, 2006). Fraibert, Adelson and Shapiro (1974) identified a destructive cycle of punishment where a parent acts in an aggressive manner towards a child who in turn acts out themselves aggressively and is punished for it. Grusec and Lytton (1988) found that children are more likely to obey their fathers than their mothers. Children are also more likely to obey their mothers in the presence of their fathers and therefore mothers tend to use more verbal reprimands, criticisms, and threats or reasoning in an attempt at compliance (Hetherington, Cox, & Cox, 1978; Lytton, 1980).

Review of Tactics & Strategies
Conflict research overwhelming supports that collaborative or integrative tactics such as descriptive statements, disclosive statements, qualifying statements, soliciting disclosure, supportive remarks, concessions, acceptance for responsibility lead to constructive management or resolution of parent-child episodes (Sillars, 1986). The collaborative techniques listed above represent constructive competent forms of communication strategies for handling parent-child conflict. Some distributive or destructive strategies include threats, demands, and prescriptions, coercion, hostility, and intimidation, personal criticisms, put-downs, and ridicule, defensiveness, sarcasm and contempt (Sillars, 1986). Finally, an avoidance conflict strategy can also be observed. Avoidance tactics include withholding a complaint, making irrelevant remarks, giving in to others demands, denying conflict, and withdrawing (Sillars, 1986). In addition to these strategies, conflict tactics, specific communication actions at a specific moment in a single interaction can be classified (Sillars, 1986; Sillars & Wilmot, 1994). The seven over arching tactics are denial and equivocation (direct denial, implicit denial, and evasive remarks), topic management (topic shifts and topic avoidance), noncommittal remarks (noncommittal statements, noncommittal questions, abstract remarks, and procedural remarks), irreverent remarks (friendly joking), analytic remarks (descriptive statements, disclosure statements, qualifying statements, solicitation of disclosure and solicitation of criticism), confrontational remarks (personal criticism, rejection, hostile imperatives, hostile joking, hostile questions, presumptive remarks, and denial of responsibility), and conciliatory remarks (supportive remarks, concessions, and acceptance of responsibility) (Cupach, Canary, & Spitzberg, 2010; Sillars, 1986; Sillars & Wilmot, 1994). These conflict strategies and tactics may be used to examine the mother- child interaction during conflict to identify how incarcerated mothers describe their mother-child conflicts and provide information for a potential content analysis coding scheme.

Similarly ones repeated use of certain conflict strategies can be translated to one’s conflict style (Rahim, 1983). Five conflict styles emerge based on one’s desire to achieve your own goals and willingness to satisfy others goals. The five conflict styles are integrating (which is similar to collaborative or integrative tactics), avoiding (which employs avoidance strategies), dominating (which uses distributive tactics, obliging (accommodating others over your own), and compromising (uses negotiation and an equal concern for your own and others goals). Clark (1995) states that the prison atmosphere encourages avoidance styles during conflict stating that the prison systems message is “when in conflict, step back and disengage” (p. 320). This avoidance strategy therefore can be utilized with their children upon re-entry. Dix, Ruble, and Zambarano (1989) discovered that a mother’s discipline is mediated by the mother’s discipline preference, child’s age and behavior, and mother’s child rearing ideology. O’Brien Caughy and Franzini (2005) also found that ethnicity or race can be a determinate of which discipline strategy to employ and which are most effective. Development of a content analysis coding scheme using conflict styles may also be an appropriate way to examine how incarcerated mothers describe their mother-child conflicts.

Socio-Communicative Style
One way to study interpersonal competence is through one’s socio-communicative style this is measured through an assertiveness/responsiveness measure which is based on an individual’s use of assertive and responsive communication behaviors (McCrosky & Richmond, 1996; Richmond & McCrosky, 1990). Assertiveness is an affinity for using requests, actively disagreeing, expressing positive and/or negative personal rights and feelings, initiate, maintain, or disengage from conversations, and standing up for oneself (Richmond & McCroskey, 1990). Responsiveness can be described as the ability to be sensitive to others, active listener, and recognizing the needs of others (Richmond & McCroskey, 1990). The most competent communicators are those who are equally responsive and assertive or high in both assertiveness and responsiveness dimensions whereas a non-competent communication is low on both dimensions (Richmond & McCrosky, 1995; Thomas, Richmond, & McCroskey, 1994). Furthermore, aggressive individuals score high on assertiveness and low on responsiveness and submissive individuals are low in assertiveness and high in responsiveness (Myers, 1998; Richmond & McCrosky, 1995; Thomas, Richmond & McCrosky, 1994). In relation to verbal aggression Myers (1998) found that non-competent, aggressive instructors were rated higher in verbal aggressiveness and competent aggressive instructors were rated higher on argumentativeness than competent and submissive instructors.

Similar to the teacher-student relationship, where much of the research on socio-communication style has been conducted, parents must also provide clarity, immediacy and understanding to their children. For instance Thomas, Richmond, and McCrosky, (1994) found a positive relationship between perceived teachers nonverbal immediacy and perceived instructors use of assertiveness and responsiveness. Sidelinger and McCrosky (1997) as found a positive relationship between instructor clarity and their socio communicative style. Two components indicative of what positive parenting is can be represented by assertiveness and responsiveness, which is similar to the balance of nurturing and control. Responsiveness is a more nurturing trait and assertiveness is more controlling which can sometimes be perceived as aggressiveness (Myers, 1998). In relation to parenting Zhang (2008) found that families who adapt consensual family types over protective or laissez-faire types have the ability to produce competent and effective communicators of their children by stressing conversation and conformity. This is similar to authoritative parents who balance the need for nurturance and control. In addition, Padilla-Walker (2008) found that mothers’ use of other oriented induction was positive because it induced positive emotions in adolescents. Children with more positive emotions towards their parents are related to child’s compliance and pro-social behaviors (Hoffman, 2000). This other oriented behavior can be attributed to responsiveness or nurturing behaviors. By analyzing the incarcerated mothers socio-communicative style one may gain insight into attitudes towards the parent-child relationship.

Research Questions
RQ1: How do recently incarcerated mothers describe their mother-child conflicts?
RQ2: Is there a relationship between mothers’ socio-communicative styles and their attitudes towards the parent child relationship?
RQ3: Is there a relationship between attitudes toward mother-child relationship and the use of verbally aggressive messages?
RQ4: Is there a relationship between incarcerated mothers socio-communicative style and use of verbally aggressive messages?
RQ5: What parenting styles are most prevalent in recently incarcerated mothers?
RQ6: Is there a relationship between parenting styles and attitudes toward mother-child relationship?

Amant, E., & Butler, C. (1984). Oppressive behaviors in the families of depressed children. Family Therapy, 11, 65-77.
Anderson, C.M., & Rancer, A.S. (2007). The Relationship between argumentativeness, verbal aggressiveness, and communication satisfaction in incarcerated male youth. The Prison Journal, 87(3), 328-343.
Arditti, J., & Few, A. (2008). Maternal distress and women’s reentry into family and community life. Family Process, 47(3), 303-321.
Arditti, J.A., Smock, S.A., & Parkman, T.S. (2005). ‘It’s been hard to be a father’: A qualitative exploration of incarcerated fatherhood. Fathering, 3(3), 267-288.
Austin, J.A., Bloom, B. & Donahue (1992). T. Female offenders in the Community: An analysis of innovative strategies and programs. National Council on Crime and Delinquency, San Francisco, C.A., September 1992, 1-38.
Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. New York: General Learning Press.
Baumrind, D. (1966). Effects of authoritative parental control on behavior. Child Development, 37, 887-907.
Baumrind, D. (1967). Child care practices anteceding three patterns of preschool behavior. Genetic Psychology Monographs, 75, 43-88.
Baumrind, D. (1971). Current patterns of parental authority. Developmental Psychology Monographs, 4,99-102.
Bayer, C.L, & Cegala, D.J. (1992). Trait verbal aggressiveness and argumentativeness: Relations with parenting style. Western Journal of Communication, 56, 301-310.
Beatty, M.J., Burant, P.A., Dobos, J.A., & Rudd, J.A. (1994). Battered women’s compliance-gaining strategies as a function of argumentativeness and verbal aggression. Communication Research Reports, 11(1), 1-32.
Beatty, M.J., Burant, P.A., Dobos, J.A., & Rudd, J.A. (1996). Trait verbal aggressiveness and the appropriateness and effectiveness of fathers’ interaction plans. Communication Quarterly, 44, 1-15.
Benzies, K., Keown, L.A., & Magill-Evans, J. (2009). Immediate and sustained effects of parenting on physical aggression in Canadian children aged six years and younger. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 54(1), 55-64.
Brody, G.H. (1998). Sibling relationship quality: Its causes and consequences. Annual Review of Psychology, 49, 1-24.
Buri, J.R., Louiselle, P.A., Misukanis, T.M., & Mueller, R.A. (1988). Effects of parental authoritarianism and authoritativeness on self-esteem. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 14, 271-282.
Bureau of Justice Statistics (2000). Special report: women offenders. U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, 1-14.
Bureau of Justice Statistics (2000). Special report: Incarcerated parents and their children. U.S.Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, 1-12.
Clark, J. (1995). The Impact of the prison environment on mothers. The Prison Journal,75(3), 306-329.
Crump, (1995). Literature Review on Women’s Anger and Other Emotions. Correctional Services of Canada.
Cupach, W.R., Canary, D.J., & Spitzberg, B.H. (2010). Competence in interpersonal conflict: 2nd edition. Waveland Press Inc., IL.
Dilbeck, K.E., & McCroskey, J.C. (2009). Socio-commutative orientation, communication competence, and rhetorical sensitivity. Human Communication, A publication of the Pacific and Asian Communication Association, 12(3), 255-266.
Dix, T., Ruble, D.N., & Zambarano, R.J.(1989). Mothers’ implicit theories of discipline: Child effects, parent effects, and the attribution process. Child Development, 60, 1373-1391.
Dunn, J., & Munn, P. (1987). Development of justification in disputes with mother and sibling.Developmental Psychology, 23, 791-798.
Dunn, J., & Slomkowski, C. (1992). Conflict and the development of social understanding. In C.U. Shantz & W.W. Hartup (Eds), Conflict in child and adolescence development, 70-92. NY: Cambridge University Press.
Eisenberg, A. R. (1992). Conflicts between mothers and their young children. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 38, 21-48.
Eskilson, A., Wiley, M.G., Muehlbauer, G., & Dodder, L. (1986). Parental pressure, self-esteem and adolescent reported deviance: Bending the twig too far. Adolescence, 2, 501-515.
Gerard, A.B. (2005). Parent-child relationship inventory (PCRI): Manual. Western Psychological Services: LA, CA.
Grella, C. E., & Greenwell, L. (2006). Correlates of parental status and attitudes toward parenting among substance abusing women offenders. The Prison Journal, 86 (1), 89-113.
Grolnick, W.S., Price, C.E., Beiswenger, K.L, & Sauck, C.C. (2007). Evaluative pressure in mothers: Effects of situation, maternal, & child characteristics on autonomy supportive versus controlling behaviors. Developmental Psychology, 43 (4), 991-1002.
Grusec, J.E., & Lytton, H. (1988). Social development: History, theory, and research. New York: Springer Verlag.
Hairston, C.F. (1991). Family ties during imprisonment: Important to whom and for what? Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare, 18, 87-104.
Hairston, C.F., & Lockett, P. (1987). Parents in prison: New directions for social services. Social Work, 32, 162-164.
Halpin, G., Halpin, G., & Whiddon, T. (1980). The relationship of perceived parental behaviors to locus of control and self-esteem among American Indian and white children. Journal of Social Psychology, 111, 189-195.
Hanlon, T.E., Carswell, S.B. & Rose, M. (2007). Research on the caretaking of children of incarcerated parents: Findings and their service delivery implications. Children and Youth Services Review, 29, 348-362.
Hartos, J.L, Eitel, P., Haynie, D.L., & Simmons-Morton, B. G. (2000). Can I take the car? Relations among parenting practices and adolescent problem-driving practices. Journal of Adolescent Research, 15, 352-367.
Heisler, J.M., & Butler Ellis. J. (2008). Motherhood and the construction of “mommy identity”: Messages about motherhood and face negotiation. Communication Quarterly, 56 (4), 445-467.
Hetherington, E.M., Cox, M, & Cox, R. (1978). The aftermath of divorce. In J.H. Stevens, Jr., & M. Mathews (Eds.), Mother-child, father-child relations. Washington: National Association for the Education of Young Children, 38-50.
Hoffman, M.L.(2000). Empathy and moral development: Implications for caring and justice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Houck, K. D.F., & Loper A.B (2002). The Relationship of parenting stress to adjustment among mothers in prison. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 72 (4), 548-558.
Huston, T.L., & Holmes, E. K. (2004). Becoming parents. In A. Vangelisti (Ed.), Handbook of family communication, 105-133. Mahway, NJ: Erlbaum.
Infante, D.A., Chandler, T.A. & Rudd, J.E. (1989). Test of an argumentative skill deficiency model of interspousal violence. Communication Monographs, 56, 164-177.
Infante, D. A., Sabourin, T.C., Rudd, J.E., & Shannon, E. (1990). Verbal aggression in violent and nonviolent marital disputes. Communication Quarterly, 38, 361-371.
Infante, D.A., & Wigley, C.J. (1986). Verbal Aggressiveness: An interpersonal model and measure. Communication Monographs, 53(1), 61-70.
Kennon, S.S., Mackintosh, V.H., & Myers, B.J. (2009). Parenting education for incarcerated mothers. The Journal of Correctional Education, 50 (1), 10-30.
Lamborn, S.D., Mounts, N.S., Steinberg, L., & Dornbusch, S.M. (1991). Patterns of competence and adjustment among adolescents from authoritative, authoritarian, indulgent, and neglectful families. Child Development, 62, 1049-1065.
LePoire, B.A. (2006). Family communication: Nurturing and control in a changing world. Sage Publications Inc, CA.
Lytton, H. (1980). Parent-child interactions: The socialization process observed in twin and singleton families. New York: Plenum.
Maccoby, E. E., & Martin, J.A. (1983). Socialization in the context of the family: Parent-child interaction. In P.H. Mussen (Series Ed.) & E. M. Hetherington (Vol. Ed.), Handbook of child psychology: Vol. 4.Socialization, personality, and social development (4th ed.) 1-101. NY: Wiley.
Martin, M.M., & Anderson, C.M. (1997). Aggressive communication traits: How similar are young adults and their parents in argumentativeness, assertiveness, and verbal aggressiveness. Western Journal of Communication, 61(3), 299-314.
McCroskey, J.C., & Richmond, V.P. (1996). Fundamentals of human communication: An interpersonal perspective. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press.
McCurdy, K. (2005). The Influence of support and stress on maternal attitudes. Child Abuse and Neglect, 29, 251-268.
Messman, S.J., & Canary, D.J. (1998). Patterns of conflict in close relationships. In B.H. Sptizberg & W.R. Cupach, (Eds.), The dark side of close relationships (pp. 121-153). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Meek, R. (2007a). Parenting education for young fathers. Child and Family Social Work, 12, 239-247.
Meek, R. (2007b). The parenting possible selves of young fathers in prison. Psychology, Crime, and Law, 13(4), 371-382.
Montemayor, R. (1986). Family variation in parent-adolescent storm and stress. Journal of Adolescent Research, 1, 15-31.
Myers, S.A. (1998). Instructor socio-communicative style, argumentativeness, and verbal aggressiveness in the college classroom. Communication Research Reports, 15(2), 141-150.
O’Brien Caughy, M., & Franzini, L. (2005). Neighborhood correlates of cultural differences in perceived effectiveness of parental disciplinary tactics. Parenting: Science and Practice, 5(2), 119-151.
Padilla-Walker, L.M. (2008). ‘My mom makes me so angry!’ Adolescent perceptions of mother-child interactions as correlates of adolescent emotions. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 306-325.
Rahim, M.A. (1983). A measure of styles of handling interpersonal conflict. Academy of Management Journal, 26, 368-376.
Richmond, V.P., & McCroskey, J.C. (1990). Reliability and separation of factors on the assertiveness-responsiveness measure. Psychological Reports, 67, 449-450.
Richmond, V.P., & McCroskey, J.C. (1995). Communication apprehension, avoidance, and effectiveness. Scottsdale,AZ: Gorsuch Scarisbrick.
Rudd, J. E, Beatty, M.J., Vogl-Bauer, S., & Dobos, J.A. (1997). Trait verbal aggressiveness and the appropriateness and effectiveness of fathers’ interaction plans II: Fathers’ self-assessments. Communication Quarterly, 45(4), 379-393.
Rudd, J.E., Vogl-Bauer, S., Dobos, J.A., Beatty, M.J., & Valencic, K.M. (1998). Interactive effects of parents’ trait verbal aggressiveness and situational frustration on parents’ self-reported anger. Communication Quarterly, 46(1), 1-11.
Sabourin, T.C., Infante, D.A., & Rudd, J.E. (1993). Verbal aggression in marriages: A comparison of violent, distressed but non-violent, and non-distressed couples. Human Communication Research, 20(2), 245-267.
Sandifer, J.L. (2008). Evaluating the efficacy of a parenting program for incarcerated mothers. The Prison Journal, 88(3), 423-445.
Shamai, M., & Kochal, R.B. (2008). “Motherhood starts in prison:” The Experience of motherhood among women in prison. Family Process, 47(3), 323-340.
Sharp, S.F. (2003). The Incarcerated woman: Rehabilitative programming in women’s prisons. Pearson Education, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Sidelinger, R.J., & McCroskey, J.C. (1997). Communication correlates of teacher clarity in the college classroom. Communication Research Reports, 14(1), 1-10.
Sillars, A. L. (1986). Procedures for coding interpersonal conflict (revised) (Manual). Misoula: University of Montana, Department of Interpersonal Communication.
Sillars, A.L., & Wilmot, W.W. (1994). Communication strategies in conflict and mediation. In J.A. Daly & J.M. Wiemann (Eds.), Strategic interpersonal communication, Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 163-190.
Smetana, J., Yau, J., & Hanson, S. (1991). Conflict resolution in families with adolescents. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 1, 189-206.
Sorbello, L., Eccleston,L., Ward, D. & Jones, R. (2002). Treatment needs of female offenders: A review. Australian Psychologist, 37(4), 198-205.
Spitzberg, B.H. (1994). A competence-based approach to the study of interpersonal conflict. In D. Cahn (Ed.), Conflict in personal relationships (pp.183-202). Hillsdale, N.J.: Erlbaum.
Steinberg, L. (2001). We know things: Adolescent-parent relationships in retrospect and prospect. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 11, 1-19.
Steinberg, L., & Silk, J.S. (2002). Parenting adolescents. In M.H. Bornstein (Ed.), Handbook of parenting: Vol. 1. Children and parenting (2nd ed.), 103-133, Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Steinmetz, S.K. (1977). The cycle of violence: Assertive, aggressive, and abusive family interaction. New York: Praeger.
Straus, M.A. (1979). Measuring intrafamily conflict and violence: The conflict tactics scales. Journal of Marriage and Family, 41, 75-88.
Surratt, H.L. (2003). Parenting attitudes of drug-involved women inmates. The Prison Journal, 83(4), 206-220.
Thomas, C.E., Richmond, V.P., & McCroskey, J.C. (1994). The association between immediacy and socio-communicative style. Communication Research Reports, 11, 107-114.
Thompson, A., Hollis, C., & Richards, D. (2003). Authoritarian parenting attitudes as a risk for conduct problems: Results form a British national cohort study. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 12, 84-90.
Thompson, R.A., Christiansen, E.H, Jackson, S., Wyatt, J.M., Colman, R.A., Peterson, R.L., Wilcox, B.L., & Buckendahl, C.W. (1999). Parent attitudes and discipline practices: Profiles and correlates in a nationally representative sample. Child Maltreatment, 4(4), 316-330.
Vuchinich, S. (1987). Starting and stopping spontaneous family conflicts. Journal of Marriage and Family, 49, 591-601.
Wilson, S.R., & Morgan, W.M. (2004). Persuasion and families. In A. Vangelisti (Ed.), Handbook of family communication. Mahwah, NJ: Laurence Erlbaum, 447-471.
Youniss, J., & Smoller, J. (1985). Adolescent relations with mothers, fathers, and friends. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Zhang, Q. (2008). Family types and children’s socio-communicative style: A Chinese investigation. Journal of Intercultural Communication Research, 37(3), 157-167.