Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences



Committee Chair

Cheryl B McNeil

Committee Co-Chair

William Fremouw

Committee Member

Thomas Horacek

Committee Member

Katherine Karraker

Committee Member

Elisa Krackow.


A majority of inmates in state and federal prisons across the U.S. have been reported to be parents of minors (Glaze & Maruschak, 2008). It is estimated that twice as many American children (i.e., 2% or over 1.7 million) compared to children of other industrialized countries have incarcerated parents (Murray, 2007). Approximately 336, 000 households with minor children are believed to be directly affected by parental imprisonment (Mumola, 2000). Parent training provided through correctional programming has potential to impact a large number of American families that are affected by parental incarceration. However, correctional parenting programs often vary across facilities and there are no empirically supported "best practices" for parenting programs provided to mothers during incarceration. The current study examines a standard parenting class offered within a correctional facility and a parent-training class modeled from Parent-Child Interaction Therapy, a program with an existing evidence base for improving parenting outcomes with community populations. Eighty-two women incarcerated in a female, state prison facility were randomized to one of the two intervention groups. Participants had a mean age of 30.83 years (SD = 5.88). The average minor child age was 6.76 years (SD = 4.37).The majority of mothers were white, non- Hispanic (93%), had not graduated from high school (i.e., less than a 12th grade education; 63.4%) and were unemployed or receiving disability benefits at the time of incarceration (56.1%). Participants reported being responsible for the care of at least one of their children (71.0 %) and seeing their children every day prior to incarceration (71.0 %). At pre-treatment, mothers reported that they talked about their child every day (64.6 %), wrote letters to their child at least once a week (57.3 %), talked with their child on the phone at least once a week (48.8 %), but were not having facility visitation with their children (76.8 %). Participants in both treatment groups were matched to intervention dose of weekly, 1.5-hour group parenting classes that each consisted of 10-15 participants. Treatment groups were combined for pre-treatment, post-treatment, and follow-up assessments that included group administration of self-report measures and individual behavior observations of analogue parenting interactions. Study findings suggest similar changes in parenting knowledge, parenting stress, and child abuse potential following both facility-based parenting programs. In addition, these findings suggest that mothers completing PCIT reported higher levels of demonstrated parenting skills and treatment satisfaction than mothers in the standard program. Each study finding as well as methodological limitations, possible implications, and future directions are discussed.