Need a perfect paper? Place your first order and save 5% with this code:   SAVE5NOW

Family Dysfunction Impacting the Mental Health Raised by a Single Parent Within the Criminal Justice System


Family relationships, mental health, and the legal aspects are critical in one’s upbringing. This study explores the complexity that combines all these aspects within the context of individuals who grew up under the criminal justice system, emphasizing cases involving single parents. The study will examine the interface of these factors and how they affect mental health and general living conditions. Despite the larger problems that society faces, people encounter their specific problems in the environment, such as societal stigma, issues with identity, and mental health. These are personalized accounts of people who grow up amid the adversities of this situation, but this study will focus on bringing these stories to the foreground.

This research is explorative as it tries to unearth silent but crucial truths underlying the issue of juvenile offending through being raised by single mothers. This study explores how the social environment and personality factors interact to impact mental well-being among children raised in such settings through semi-structured interviews involving individuals who experienced it directly. These narratives, in addition, will bring on board some perspectives concerning broader society and the systemic implications of the matter in question. This study aims to provide an integrated framework for incorporating the individual’s world with their reality by integrating his/her personal experience, family dynamics, and the criminal justice system.

Literature review

Consequences of Father-Absence in the Context of Criminal Justice

The effects of growing up with an absent father figure within society are complex and extensive. First, the children in fathers’ absence exhibit high cases of mental ill health. It is worth mentioning that studies have proven that the Lack of a father in a child’s life translates into emotional issues like anxiety and depression, among others (Nasution et al., 2023). Normally, a missing parent results in other emotional challenges that are likely to be magnified with criminal justice due to the Lack being both physical and psychological. Sense of abandonment leads to psychological distress that comes in different forms, which affects the emotional stability and mental health of the child.

Children from such families experience many obstacles in academics. Studies continually indicate that these kids are more prone to poor academic performance and high school graduation rates. Without a father figure, a boy will have lower intellectual desires and be unmotivated to pursue them. In particular, among communities where people have high involvement in criminal cases, education becomes an important route to break off recurrent cycles of crime and poverty. Besides limiting the children’s current academic performance, such failures have severe social and economic consequences throughout their lives.

Moreover, such children are also more likely to join street gangs due to the absence of a father figure at Home. When there is no father, it usually results in longing for belonging while searching for a sense of their identity in other groups like gangs. Involvement in the gang becomes even more alarming, especially in the criminal justice system, since these activities may result in continuous criminal activity and imprisonment. Often, these boys do not have enough positive male role models in their lives, and so they end up looking at gang leaders for guidance. This lifestyle becomes ingrained into these children’s minds, and undoing what has already started becomes impossible. This reiterates the importance of specific programs and assistance aimed at children brought up in single-parent families, especially the ones involved in law infringements. Given that these adverse outcomes can be alleviated by offering emotional and academic support together with positive male role models.

Mental Health and Single Parenthood

First, it is common for a single parent to face such issues as financial burden and sole childcare, which are very stressful. This can cause psychological problems like stress, anxiety, and depression. These ongoing duties and financial problems weigh heavily on the minds of many single mothers. However, low income and a small budget make financial management an extra worry for most single-parent families (Rees, Ferguson & MacDonald, 48).

Also, this means that students may lack enough personal time and, therefore, have a high risk of becoming lonely or isolated, thus worsening their mental health problems.

Also, this means that students may lack enough personal time and, therefore, have a high risk of becoming lonely or isolated, thus worsening their mental health problems. Taking care of children in sole parenting usually entails putting up one’s needs and that of any other person for later consideration. Lack of self-care or personal time in return contributes to a feeling of loneliness and worsening of one’s mental state. Single parents should set aside some time for themselves, and if necessary, they need to find places to be supported to help ease some of these pressures. Lastly, anxiety among single parents often increases in line with this. The Mental Health Foundation study in 2023 established that single parents experienced the highest rate since 89% of them reported having anxiety attacks in the preceding two weeks, which is more than double that of the entire population. Such an anxiety can cripple you in such a way that even your daily duties become a challenge. Two of the important elements that may be able to mitigate this anxiety include financial security and support systems.

Impact of Parental Incarceration on Children

Children usually suffer a lot from having incarcerated parents educationally. Studies have proved that having a parent being incarcerated can lead to reduced achievement in education among children. Family life could be disrupted by HIV/AIDS transmission, resulting in stigma and less income for support. Furthermore, these children are also likely to show behavioral difficulties in school, which may include higher rates of suspension or expulsions, restricting their school progress even further. This goes on to show that there is a great demand for child-specific education support systems for incarcerated parents’ children.

Economically, this could mean another reduction in family income, putting the children in even more trouble. A decrease in family income usually persists throughout and immediately after incarceration. This affects children’s standard of living and access to resources like education (Martin, 2017). However, this economic strain could lead to many difficulties for those children, including a Lack of stable housing and inadequate accessibility to educational and development possibilities, highlighting why those families need economic support and intervention programs.

The implication of a parent’s imprisonment on the psyche and psychology of a child is severe. Issues like problems of attachment, high anxiety and depression, and many other types of mental health disturbances come about due to disruptions in the parent-child relationships. This is, however, dependent on the quality of their relationships prior to being incarcerated. Researchers have revealed that continuity of communication may sometimes not be necessary, especially if the relationships before incarceration were bad. It shows that parents should be supported in positive parent–child interactions during imprisonment to alleviate negative emotional outcomes in the children.


The methodology for this research involved conducting semi-structured interviews with two individuals who have personal experiences related to family dysfunction, single parenthood, and the criminal justice system. These interviews were designed to gather in-depth qualitative data regarding their experiences and perspectives.

Interview Settings

The first interview was conducted on September 3, 2023, at a local community center in a private meeting room to ensure confidentiality and comfort for the respondent. The second interview took place on September 10, 2023, in a quiet corner of a public library, chosen for its neutral and accessible location.


Each interview lasted approximately thirty minutes, allowing ample time for an in-depth exploration of the topics.

Relationship with Respondents

The first respondent, Alex, is an acquaintance of the community support group. Our relationship is based on mutual respect and a shared interest in community welfare. The second respondent, Jordan, was introduced through a mutual friend. Before the interview, our interaction was limited, primarily for setting up the interview.

Interview Dynamics:

With Alex, the interview was more conversational, with Alex often taking the lead. This approach helped uncover new topics, such as the impact of community support in dealing with family challenges. In contrast, the interview with Jordan was more structured, following the interview guide closely. However, Jordan’s insights still provided depth to the predefined questions.

Challenges Encountered:

A minor scheduling conflict occurred with Alex’s interview, which was resolved by adjusting the interview time to suit both parties. No significant issues arose during Jordan’s interview.

Respondent Characteristics:

Alex, 30 years old, has a background in social work and was raised by a single mother with a history of legal challenges. Both professional and personal experiences shape Alex’s insights. Jordan, 45 years old, is a single parent and a former inmate, now working as a community advocate. Jordan’s experiences provide a unique perspective on parenting within the constraints of the criminal justice system.

Critique of Interview Guide

For this study, a special interview guide was carefully structured in line with the central themes of family trouble, single parenting, and mental health effects with the criminal justice system involvement. This guide will briefly discuss some of the decisions taken on which questions to include or exclude, as well as modifications done while conducting the interviews.

Selection and Exclusion of Questions

A few questions emerged through the interviews, which required a closer look into certain areas of the participants’ experiences. More questions were included to understand their respective roles in mitigating distress and the individual’s coping strategies. The extra questions were meant to explore how people cope with special issues and give them a fuller picture of what this must be like.

Addition of New Questions

During the interviews, it became apparent that additional questions were needed to delve deeper into specific aspects of the respondents’ experiences. Questions were added to explore the role of community support systems and the personal coping mechanisms of the respondents. These additional questions aimed to uncover the nuanced ways individuals navigate the challenges posed by their unique circumstances, offering a more comprehensive view of their experiences.

Effectiveness of Questions

Some open-ended questions about how respondent’s experience in childhood influenced their present mental health were of special interest among all others. The answers to these questions were meaningful, further understanding the enduring results of domestic deficit and legal proceedings. However, some of these questions were not as successful as others. For example, such queries as being too specific or remembering intricate information about the past impeded natural dialogue.2: More natural results were achieved by giving the respondents more control over the direction of the interview, which resulted in more genuine conversations.

A great significance was attached to the interview guide as it helped shape the direction and depth of the interviews. This allowed for the adaptation of the guide during the interviews, which greatly assisted in exploring the complex elements within the theme of this research. Responsiveness and flexibility were critical in qualitative studies dealing with sensitive content. Such was evident when considering some questions better than others.


Before and During the Interviews:

I had mixed feelings about my expectations before doing the interview. While I was interested in exploring the complex narratives of these respondents, I was equally cautious about broaching such intimate and delicate issues. As time passed during the interviews, such feelings changed into great responsibility to prepare a trusting atmosphere for the responders. They needed to feel as if they were being listened to. The significance of emotional intelligence came out during this long emotional tour in conducting qualitative research. The researchers had to strike a delicate balance of professionalism while showing empathy and understanding towards the respondents.

Stretching Myself and Skill Assessment:

It made me surpass my comfort zone as I carefully balanced on the tightrope of keeping to the interview guide and allowing the conversation to come along naturally. I had to become more flexible and let the respondents determine the direction of the discussion, which generally resulted in a deeper understanding. In evaluating my abilities, I impacted making the respondents comfortable. Moreover, there were no issues related to active listening to them when taking down their stories. My probing skills need to be improved to get more elaborate answers to even complex issues.

Effective Probing and Areas for Improvement:

I did probe effectively once during the discussion about the effect of prison terms on personal development. This enabled me to ask more follow-up questions, allowing the respondent to look deeper into their feelings and experiences. Sometimes, like discussing coping mechanisms, I pushed harder with my questions. At times, I was cautious and hesitant about getting too personal. It has shown me that careful probing is important in the qualitative interview, and as much respect for boundaries as possible while simultaneously seeking a full understanding.

My understanding of the world of action research did not occur exclusively by interviewing but also while being interviewed through exploring the respondents’ experience and perceptions about action research, thereby becoming a co-researcher. It stressed the need for emotional preparedness, adaptability, and constant enhancement of interviewing skills. Reminiscing on this episode, I know which aspects went well and some points that need improvement, especially probing properly but still considering the participants’ moods.


Significant patterns and themes emerge in an analysis of the interviews done with Alex and Jordan, which provide more insight into how family dysfunction and criminal justice affect children a single parent has brought up.

The emotional toll, as well as the psychological implications that individuals experienced when they grew up in families influenced by the criminal justice system, were also presented in both interviews. Alex remarked, “Almost always, I experience loneliness, which creates distrust of others. What would it be like if my father were there?” The same thing can be said with Jordan, who pointed out, “Lack of worth constantly is warfare. I ask

They all developed ways of coping and resilience. Alex shared, “I had to grow up quickly to become self-reliant. It was survival.” Jordan echoed this sentiment: The first quote says, ‘You discover strength you never knew you had. It is about perseverance for yourself and the people you love.’ These remarks show how tragedy made both respondents more independent and tough. This implies that although the issues were enormous, they also drove personal development and strength.

All the two respondents highlighted the need for support groups in cushioning the impact of growing up. Alex commented, “Community groups and mentors were filling a vacuum created by my absent parents.” On the other hand, Jordan said, “Friends and support community programs provided me with a strong support base to keep me on track.” Indeed, these statements imply that external support systems such as community.

Patterns of resistance initially followed by striving towards purpose were revealed concerning education/career ambitions. Alex said, “Early on, I struggled in school, but finding my passion in social work gave me direction.” Also, Jordan said that education was not a priority initially but is now my road leading to a better life.” These narratives show how education becomes the road to personal achievement, even though both interviews highlighted the lasting effect of these experiences. Alex says, “It took years to appreciate that this is part of me.” Furthermore, Jordan remarks, “Looking back, I can only reflect on how these experiences have become the basis of making my decision, good or bad.” This shows me their efforts to make sense of why they

Patterns and themes derived from interviews with Alex and Jordan are not simply descriptive but aim at addressing the “why” of their experiences. Together, they tell a story of how one’s familial relationships, interactions with the criminal justice apparatus, and maturational pathways all overlap intricately and interactively shape one’s emotions, psyche, building up of resiliency, evolving educational and professional goals.


Using semi-structured interviewing, this research gives useful accounts of the intricate lived realities of people raised in single-parent households who get caught up in criminality. These interviews were semi-structured and very helpful in examining such delicate issues. In this format, one could discuss different issues going to greater dimensions and depth, which would otherwise be missed through an interview using a more organized structure. Alex’s and Jordan’s personal narratives presented the practical applications of literature theories, which otherwise would have remained unrelated to human reality. Notwithstanding, this technique highlighted the importance of qualitative data on humanizing society’s effects and their related contexts.

This has many implications for practice and research. However, it underscores the long-term emotional and psychological consequences of parental imprisonment and the importance of support structures in alleviating such adverse impacts. Besides, it underlines the significance of resilient and adaptive personal strategies under adverse conditions. The insights are also useful for social work and counseling issues and criminal justice policies, which call for special attention to the kids and households in confinement. A bigger study that involves a wider and more diversified sample may be recommended for further study on this subject matter. An investigation of the effects that last longer up to adulthood, as well as an evaluation of the available assistance programs, would help develop better intervention programs and policies. Also, these would help in understanding differences between varying demographics that experience abuse within a community. Top of Form


Arteaga, C. (2023). Parental incarceration and children’s educational attainment. The Review of Economics and Statistics105(6), 1394–1410.

Fuimaono, W. I. (2017). The Absence of a Father in the Home as a Predictor for Students Receiving Long-Term Suspensions and Students Failing to Complete High School (Doctoral dissertation, Southwest Baptist University).

Martin, E. (2017). Hidden consequences: The impact of incarceration on dependent children. National Institute of Justice Journal278(7).

Mental Health Foundation. (2023). Single parents are more at risk of anxiety [Review of Single parents are more at risk of anxiety]. Mental Health Foundation.,day%2Dto%2Dday%20life.

Nasution, E. S., Rahayu, A., & Cameliana, A. (2023). The Impact of Father’s Absence on Psychological Conditions in Children from Commuter Marriage Families. Asian Journal of Social and Humanities1(12), 1031–1038.

Rees, E., Beeber, S. N., Sampson, R., & Lietz, J. P. (2023). Empowering Single Parents: Navigating Socio-Economic Challenges and Fostering Resilience in Family Well-being. Law and Economics17(2), 138–157.

Wildeman, C., Goldman, A. W., & Turney, K. (2018). Parental Incarceration and Child Health in the United States. Epidemiologic Reviews40(1), 146–156.

Interview Notes:

 Informant 1: Alex, A 30-year-old, was brought up by a mom and a frequent criminal judge’s client. When he was growing up, Alex, now a social worker, had mental health problems.

Informant 2: Jordan is forty-five and has a history of being imprisoned. He has now become a community advocate. Jordan’s experiences offer a glimpse into some of the problems associated with being a parent and coming into contact with law enforcement agencies.

Respondent 1: Alex

  • Interviewer (I): “Can you share your experience growing up with a single parent involved in the criminal justice system?”
  • Alex (A): My childhood was full of unexpected happenings resulting from my mother’s cases in our house. She appeared sporadically in my life; thus, I would be with her at any time, and without notice, she would disappear. Uncertainties that characterized this cycle had a deep impact on my stable feelings and the well-being of my family’s situation.
  • I: “How did these experiences shape your approach to relationships and trust?”
  • A: The persistent absence of my mother due to her legal troubles instilled deep-seated trust issues in me. It was a constant feeling of being lonely, which had hindered my ability to establish meaningful relationships with people around me. I would never feel safe with anyone whom I love since the death of my mother taught me that anyone can disappear at any moment, causing me to be suspicious about my environment at all times. Top of Form
  • I: “What coping mechanisms did you develop during this time?”
  • A: From an early age, I learned the art of self-reliance. My mother’s absence forced me to become independent, a challenge that tested my resilience. While it was undoubtedly tough, this early independence molded me into a person who could weather life’s storms with determination. It taught me the value of self-sufficiency and gave me a strength that would prove invaluable in adversity.

Respondent 2: Jordan

  • I: “As a single parent within the criminal justice system, what were some of the major challenges you faced?”
  • Jordan (J): One of the most significant challenges I faced was creating a stable and nurturing environment for my child. My interactions with the justice system meant I could not always be there for them when they needed me most. Balancing the demands of legal issues with the responsibilities of parenthood was a constant juggling act. It weighed heavily on me, knowing that I could not consistently provide the stability and support my child deserved during those challenging times.
  • Top of Form
  • I: “What strategies did you employ to ensure you were present in your child’s life despite these challenges?”
  • J: I was determined to be as involved as possible in my child’s life, and I consciously prioritized quality time together. Despite my challenges, I wanted to be a positive role model for my child. I understood the importance of creating meaningful experiences and memories during our time together, and I strived to provide a nurturing and supportive presence in their life.
  • I: “Looking back, how do you think your experiences have influenced your child’s upbringing?”
  • J: My child has become more considerate and compassionate, following all these experiences and difficulties we have tackled together. They have followed me through the struggle and seen the effect some decisions had on people’s lives. This helps them realize that choosing a direction is something they need to do carefully. Through their experience, they gained knowledge of empathy and compassion, which is important in supporting people facing hardships. The journey they have undertaken together has also been instrumental in shaping them into caring and understanding human beings.­Top of Form


Don't have time to write this essay on your own?
Use our essay writing service and save your time. We guarantee high quality, on-time delivery and 100% confidentiality. All our papers are written from scratch according to your instructions and are plagiarism free.
Place an order

Cite This Work

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing style below:

Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Need a plagiarism free essay written by an educator?
Order it today

Popular Essay Topics