This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

An Intentional Love: How Incarcerated Women Experience Maternal-Infant Bonding




Wofford, Leslie

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Special Education, Rehabilitation, Counseling


The purpose of this study is to gain an understanding of how incarcerated women experience pregnancy, child birth, and separation from their children. Issues and challenges experienced by pregnant inmates highlight the need for research in this area, so the difficulties can be better understood. Research studies surrounding pregnancy within the incarcerated population are few and mostly geared towards understanding birth outcomes and nursing implications. Doan and Zimmerman (2008) describe maternal prenatal attachment as a developmental process, where mothers express their attachment in terms of cognitive and emotional connections, displaying attachment behaviors, and maintaining healthy self-care. This study aims to better understand how incarcerated women develop maternal bonds with their unborn babies all while preparing for delivery and possible separation. The proposed findings of this research study sought to uncover the meanings behind the experiences of incarceration while pregnant, with hopes of yielding implications for correctional systems, correctional healthcare providers, and correctional counseling providers. Results from this research study provide implications for correctional maternal care and literature surrounding this topic in the counseling profession.