Sociology ETDs


Erin Kleymann

Publication Date



An increasing number of women are being incarcerated, of which almost 80% are mothers. Many of these women have children who they wish to reconnect with upon release. Desistance research, which has focused on male populations, finds that conventional social bonds increase odds of desistance. However, there are few studies of womens desistance and it is unclear if social bonds exhibit the same affect for females. Using desistance literature, social control, and strain theories, I examine the Glueck Women's Reformatory Study data from the 1920's. I focus on two key questions: Is motherhood important to desistance? And under what conditions does motherhood affect desistance for mothers? Specifically I address how custody of children, the mother-child bond, and financial and social resources affect desistance among mothers. I develop and test a set of hypotheses based on these three conditions to determine the role of children in mother's lives. Findings indicate that motherhood is important to desistance; mothers are more likely to desist than non-mothers. Furthermore, mothers with regular employment, strong mother-child bonds, and full time custody of children are more likely to desist than mothers without these factors. These findings suggest that mother-child relationships act as a social control for mothers' behavior but only when the relationship is strong and positive.

Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name


First Committee Member (Chair)

Lyons, Christopher

Second Committee Member

Velez, Maria


Female offenders--Family relationships, Women prisoners--Family relationships, Recidivism--Social aspects, Custody of children--Social aspects, Mother and child



Document Type