Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts Honours


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Greg Dear


This review was focussed on three areas (1) theoretical concepts of stress, coping and social support; (2) explanations for the patterns of prisoners' perceptions of their support-seeking behavior; and (3) the impact on families providing support. Prisoners' patterns of support seeking in the prison environment appear more consistent with hierarchical organisations than the domestication model of unit management. For stressful, uncontrollable situations, emotional support is sought from families, who are difficult to access. The family obligation to provide the free service of support to prisoners has implications for prison management and policy. Priorities for future research are (1) the impact of incarceration and supportive interactions on families, both materially and psychologically, that currently serves to frustrate the supportive process, and (2) a comparison study of female prisoners and male family visitors: Research on prisoners' support seeking behaviour indicates that while prisoners prefer family support, they have difficulty accessing it. Qualitative data were collected to explore what frustrates and facilitates the provision of support to a family member in prison. Semi-structured inte1views were conducted with 10 women and 2 men, who regularly visit a family member in a Western Australian maximum security prison. Thematic analysis of the data indicated that providing support was facilitated by visitors having familiarity with the system, adequate resources, and adaptive coping strategies. Providing support was frustrated by visitors' difficulties with the prison environment, insufficient resources, and multiple stresses associated with incarceration. The hidden labour and hidden costs to women mask the contradictions and incompatibility of the domestic and public spheres that are at the nexus between the carer role and dependence of the prisoner, and the prison. The obligation for women to provide this free labour of care, reinforced by the domestication model of unit management, has ethical implications for policy and professionals in the field about the rights and roles of prison visitors, opening the topic to further research.