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There is an increase in the diagnosis of mental illness in the inmate population within correctional facilities in the United States. Most of these inmates are male, and many of them are fathers of minor children. Although fathers are plentiful among inmate populations, there is a lack of empirical research on incarcerated fathers, and even less on those with mental illness. This study contributes to extant literature on incarcerated fathers by examining the effects on a type of social support (visitation) on depression symptomatology, using stress process and behavioral theory to frame the study. A handful of studies suggest that social support is linked to positive adjustment during incarceration, and positive adjustment may buffer symptoms of depression. Specifically, I addressed whether amount of visitation or type of visitor is associated with reports of depressive symptoms in a sample of 400 fathers diagnosed with depression and incarcerated with the Florida Department of Corrections. After controlling for a number of variables known to influence visitation and depression, results showed that visitation was related to a lack of increase in reports of depressive symptoms 12 months after incarceration and fewer reports of depressive symptoms. Post hoc testing revealed a significant difference between inmates receiving zero visitations and those receiving 1-5 visits. Further, results also showed that the type of visitor (spouse/girlfriend, child, or parent vs. sibling, friend, or other relative) did not specifically affect changes in depressive symptoms. Recommendations are made for future research that aim to enhance successful prison adjustment, maintenance of social support systems, and reentry policy initiatives for the incarcerated fathers suffering from depression.
behavioral theory, depression, incarceration, social support, visitation
Date of Defense
June 25, 2015.
A Thesis submitted to the Department of Family and Child Sciences in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science.
Includes bibliographical references.
Kay Pasley, Professor Directing Thesis; Melinda Gonzales-Backen, Committee Member; Stephen Tripodi, Committee Member.
Florida State University
Black, M. A. (2015). Exploring the Relationship Between Visitation and Depressive Symptoms of Incarcerated Fathers. Retrieved from http://purl.flvc.org/fsu/fd/FSU_migr_etd-9552