The COPING Project – children of prisoners, interventions and mitigations to strengthen mental health

M. Schuster, Adele Jones, M. Schűtzwohl

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting Abstractpeer-review


Background/Objectives: COPING is a child-centred project which aims to investigate the characteristics and care of children with imprisoned parents, their resilience, and their vulnerability to mental health problems. This group of children is exposed to break-up of the family, financial hardship, and extremes of stigma and secrecy, leading to adverse social and educational repercussions. COPING aims to enhance understanding of mental health needs of prisoners’ children; to explore childhood resilience and coping strategies and assess the value of these concepts for planning of interventions; to bring together European and international perspectives to investigate the nature and extent of mental health problems affecting prisoners’ children; to raise awareness of policymakers and service providers across EU countries to the needs of this under-researched group; and to identify effective policy interventions and steer public policy to ameliorate mental health implications for affected children.

Methods: The project is covering four European countries (UK, Germany, Romania, and Sweden) comprising a consortium of ten member organisations with two umbrella organisations: Quaker United Nations Office in Switzerland and EUROCHIPS in France. Surveys of 250 children in each country with an imprisoned parent will be conducted, using the Strength to Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ), the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (RSE), and the KIDSCREEN questionnaire to ascertain their coping strategies, mental health problems and health related quality of life, which will be compared to normative population samples. Smaller groups of children and parents (n=40) will be involved in qualitative interviews to explore the impact of parental imprisonment and support services available in detail. Interventions to support these families will be comprehensively mapped.

Results: The impact of the COPING project will include improvements in information about this group of children; step changes in Government and public awareness about their plight; potential new legislation; and improvements in prison regimes to enable effective contact and visits for children to imprisoned parents, and in education and support of parents prior to family reunification.

Discussion/Conclusions: The approach of the COPING project is innovative by drawing on children's voices; by focusing on resilience, on how prisoners’ children cope with this experience; by creating an evidence base for developing policy and interventions where little currently exists; and in its scope by surveying 800 prisoners’ children in four European countries.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberP54_EL
JournalPsychiatrische Praxis
Issue numberS01
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2011
Event9th International Conference of the European Network for Mental Health Service Evaluation - Ulm, Germany
Duration: 23 Jun 201125 Jun 2011
Conference number: 9


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