Hopelessly Devoted? Relationship Quality During and After Incarceration

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A growing literature highlights the multifaceted consequences of incarceration for family life, but little is known about the quality of relationships between couples who remain together during and after 1 partner's incarceration. In this article, the author used data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (N = 1,848), a longitudinal cohort of parents, to consider the association between paternal incarceration and 4 measures of relationship quality: (a) overall relationship quality, (b) supportiveness, (c) emotional abuse, and (d) physical abuse. The results showed that paternal incarceration in the past 2 years was, by and large, associated with lower mother-reported (but not father-reported) relationship quality. However, across some outcome variables, current paternal incarceration was positively associated with relationship quality. Taken together, these findings suggest that current and recent incarceration have countervailing consequences for relationship quality and, more generally, that the penal system exerts a powerful influence even among couples who maintain relationships.

Turney, Kristin. 2015. “Hopelessly Devoted? Relationship Quality During and After Incarceration.” Journal of Marriage and Family 77:480–495.