Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Women prisoners-Mental health, Pregnancy in mentally ill women, Mentally ill mothers-Rehabilitation, Mentallly ill-Treatment, Post-traumatic stress disorder, Pregnancy-Psychological aspects, Puerperium-Psychological aspects, Attachment disorder, Pregnant, Postpartium, Incarcerated women, Attachment, Intimate partner violence, Experiences of, Family violence


This theoretical thesis explores the experiences of pregnant and postpartum incarcerated women, with particular emphasis on the impact of attachment insecurity, relational trauma, and forced separation from their infants. The majority of incarcerated women are dually diagnosed with substance abuse disorder and other clinical disorders on Axis I or II of the Diagnostic Statistic Manual IV. Often the symptoms displayed from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder are mistaken for personality disorders which prejudice staff and providers against these women. Thorough assessments need to be conducted using a compassionate lens to accurately interpret the psychological effects of interpersonal violence and other traumas and in the creation of a comprehensive treatment plan. Empirical evidence from research and case studies from my experience doing individual and group work with pregnant and postpartum inmates at a Northeast correctional center will be used to explore this phenomena. I use attachment theory to examine the unique stressors these women face and their response to profound hardships. Different treatment methods including gender-responsive, trauma-informed individual and group interpersonal psychotherapy are recommended to support healing and transformation in these women so that they can break the cycle of incarceration and decrease the transmission of their attachment insecurity onto their children.




iii, 66 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)-Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2011. Includes bibliographical references (p. 63-66)