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Incarcerated Fathers: Palestinian Children and Experiences of Difficulties


Incarcerated Fathers: Palestinian Children and Experiences of Difficulties

Dr. Amer Shehadeh([1])

Dr. Kristel Tardif-Grenier([2])


This study aimed to reveal the difficulties experienced by the children of Palestinian men arrested and held in Israeli prisons. 30 captives’ children, (between 11-17 years old, all of whom have a father in Israeli prison) were interviewed using a semi structured interview, using open- questions to provide them with a greater opportunity to speak about their experiences. The interviews were held in the children’s houses in the presence of their mothers.  On the other hand, these interviews were carried out by female a specialized in psychology and in doing such interviews. Four main research questions were discussed; community difficulties, social support, feelings and emotions and adjustment strategies. A thematic analysis way was used throughout the interviews. We concluded that in addition to the fear and lonely feelings of being separated


from their fathers, the very tired and frustrating visiting process to Israeli prison and the ongoing conflict, situation within Corona time, the children expressed a frustrating and tough social network characterized by constant interferences in their personal lives. Most children spoke about the need of specialized psychosocial and social support; in addition, coping strategies ranged from religious, confrontation, acceptance, distraction, to planning strategies.                                          

Key Words: Palestinian prisoner, Adaptation strategies, Support, Difficulties of visiting


Since 1967, there were about one million Palestinians against whom arrest with its different forms whether precautionary or administrative or sentence and sentences ranging from days to hundreds of years, was practised (B sealem, 2019). With an approximate calculation, more than 20% of the families in the Occupied Palestinian Territories were exposed to the arrest of one family member, most often the father or one of the male sons, and with a lesser percentage of females.  For the Palestinians, these detainees according to the view of the Palestinian people are part of the resistance against the occupation. They are considered as political prisoners or detainees. For their families, they are considered a source of pride (Quota, et al., 2008). Since the ratification of the Oslo Agreement in 1993, the Palestinian National Authority possesses only limited authorities for taking care of the interests of the Palestinians and ruling them on a part of the Palestinian Territories. From a security aspect, the sovereignty of the Palestinian National Authority does not reach controlling the borders or protecting the Palestinian citizen from imprisonment by the state of the Israeli occupation. Accordingly, the arrest operations are as they were before the establishment of the Authority.

Early researches bout how Palestinian children and adolescents deal with traumatic experiences in the context of the Israeli occupation tend to concentrate on the spread of the post trauma disturbance symptoms and other psychological disturbances after the children were exposed to traumatic events (Shehadeh et al., 2016, 2015). There are also other studies which shed the light on the adaptation and confrontation strategies of the children and the youths. (Thabit et al., 2010; Najween Gilham et al., 2008; Kinner, et al , 2007) describe how the Palestinian children in the areas of the Palestinian Authority deal with the unnatural situations and subject them to become suitable for them, while others point out that the meaning which is adopted by these children and which takes them to conflict might make them more capable of bearing bodily pain (Barber, 2009). This is what was found in some studies and was pointed out to in that the difficult circumstances in which the children live might help them to develop and to adapt although they grew up in extremely difficult circumstances (Rutter, 2012; Phillips, Gates, 2011). This is what some studies have revealed in that in difficult circumstances, people are more capable of searching and finding means and ways which help them to deal positively in order to reach a state of balance and adaptation (Teresa, 2020; Hobfoll and De Long, 2014; Ungar, 2011).

The researcher studies the effect of the incarceration of the fathers in the West bank areas on their children and the difficulties which they may face and how they acclimatize with these circumstances under the absence of the father.

The researches which were conducted in similar areas emphasize the importance of the political ideology which is connected with the idea of resisting the occupation instead of suffering from the stigma of disgrace and shyness which is connected with the penal imprisonment (Murray and Farrington, 2008; Boswell, 2002), and the unsocial behaviour and violence (Dawson, Jackson & Nyamthi, 2012).

The families of the prisoners who have political motives tend to enjoy the support of the society and the positive social view of the prisoner (Shehadeh et al., 2016). Palestinian researches concerning political prisoners have greatly focused on the effect of the confinement on the detainee himself (Bonamaki et al., 2010). Some researches have shed the light on the devoted fatherhood, the cognitive ability of the children and the social support as main factors which reinforce the ability of the children to adapt with the absence of their father (Shehadeh et al., 2016; Qoteh et al., 2008).

This paper will attempt to look into two factors through positing a group of open-ended questions (Appendix number 1) and which allow the respondent to talk with liberality concerning two factors which are: the difficulties which face him as a son of a Palestinian incarcerated person and the ways of adaptation in order to face these difficulties under the absence of the father. This study will aim specifically to answer the following questions:

-What are the difficulties which the children of the Palestinian prisoners faced under the imprisonment of the father in the prisons of the occupation?

-How do they deal with and acclimatize with these difficulties?

-What are the sources of support which these children and their families obtain?

The Methodology

The Context of the Study and the Participants:

This study is a part of a larger research project which is related to the daily life of the families of the Palestinian prisoners and the psychological and social problems which these families face because of the absence of the head of the family in the circumstances of the Israeli detention, and how they overcome these circumstances through looking into the ways of their adaptation. An important part of this research was the research which is based on interviewing the sons of the prisoners to look into the topic of the problems and ways of adaptation by means of positing a group of open-ended questions to the children. This is for giving them the sufficient space to talk with liberality about the topic of the father’s imprisonment and the problems which follow it. In this part of the project, 30 children whose age ranged between 11 and 18 years were interviewed.

A female who was trained in this kind of interviews conducted the interviews. She holds the educational qualification required for this. This was for cultural reasons. For this reason, the interviews were conducted in the house of every prisoner. The researcher (the first author) was a man. Because of the customs and traditions of the society and because of the absence of the head of the house, he was not present during the interviews in accordance with respecting the customs, traditions and culture of the society. In some parts of the Palestinian culture, it is not better than a strange man comes to the woman’s house while her husband is absent. The one who conducted the interviews is qualified and has the Bachelor’s degree in Social Work and she was trained in conducting researches. I as a researcher took care to be available and that it is possible to contact me basically by telephone if any of the team has questions (See Table 1).

The Interview

It is a semi-structured interview with 18 open-ended questions which give a bigger opportunity for the participants to talk about their experiences. Most often the questions concentrate on one’s experiences with the detention of the father ; their needs, their relations with members of the family, support, visits, feelings, fears, circumstances of daily life , the ways in which they deal with the situation and the meaning of life for them (See Appendix 1). All the recorded interviews were precisely copied without editing (Lapadat & Lindsay, 1999).

Data Analysis:

An interview was conducted with 30 children whose age ranged between 11 and 18 years from four Palestinian governorates. They were chosen after corresponding with their families and obtaining the approval. These children showed the approval for conducting a recorded interview from 200 families which were subjected to research. The interview was conducted by means of a specialized and trained team in conducting this kind of interviews. The interviews were recorded and with the prior consent of the guardian of each child. After collecting the data, they were analysed by using topic analysis (Brown, 2006; Shehadeh et al., 2016). In the beginning the recording was heard at least twice and then the recorded interviews were transcribed on papers because ethe topic analysis was to be manual.

According to the method of topic analysis (Brown, 2006), after transcribing the interviews the interviews are read more than one time. After this step, the step which follows it according to the method of topic analysis which is beginning coding whereby similar topics are given a specific colour. The interviews were read several times to make sure of the choices. After that, reading is done for the last time for integrating the matters which are frequently repeated in specific axes and the matters which are not repeated are excluded. In this stage we got the first map (Appendix number 1). The reading is repeated once again to integrate the sub-topics which are more attracted to each other under names which are more containing and more general for the sub-topics so that we get map number 2 (Appendix number 3). This is followed by repeating the reading and returning another time for reading all the interviews, coding once again and comparing and making sure that sub-topics or basic ones are not forgotten and comparing what we have with map number 2 to get the final result which is map number 3.

All these maps were presented to speakers of English and Arabic from the colleagues who studied in Britain then translating them by me into Arabic under their supervision and then translating them a second time from English into Arabic and making sure that the meaning is congruent.

Thematic map 1: Experiences related to Palestinian father’s imprisonment

Security and protection


Grief and pain
Visiting difficulties
Feeling of loneliness
Changing life routine
Changing society,s view
Tiring visit
Family problems
Father,s life and pride
Toward religion
Feeling lackness      and loss
Longing and yearning
Future planning
Going for entertainment trips
Going for social and athletic work
Dealing with children difficulties
Tension and anxiety
Negative energy
Financial problems
Inteference in  private life
Practicing sports
Social support
Positive thinking
Reading Quran
Friends support
social relations
Voluntary work institutions


اemotional distubances
Family fears
Positive feelings
Accepting the present situation
Planning for the future
Athletic clubs

The topics and the selected sub-topics and all the excluded information were revised and were revised with a group of the complete data to make sure that these topics and sub-topics support each other in an adequate way, and that they are coherent in a purposeful way, and also ascertaining whether the differences which can be specified between the topics are clear (Map number 2) Braun & Clarke, 2006).

Thematic map 2: Experiences related to Palestinian father’s imprisonment



Family fears
اemotional disturbances
Interfrance in private life
Tension and anxiety
Financial problems
Feeling loneliness
Family problems
Grief and pain
Feeling og lackness and loss
Changing society view
Changing life routine
Dealing with children difficulties
Negative energy
Changing life routine
Tiring visit
Longing and yearning
Visiting difficulties
Negative energy
Security and protection
Social life
Friends support
Society view
Financial support
Social support
Positive feelings
Accepting the present situation
Planning for the future
Athletic clubs
Voluntory work institutions
Reading Quran
Social relations
Positive thinking
Practicing sports
Going for social and athletic work
Going for entertainment trips
Future planning
Father,s life and pride
Going to religion






Thematic map 3: Experiences related to Palestinian father’s imprisonment

Through doing this, it helps the researcher to achieve a meaningful cohesion between the levels of the topic which better reflects the satisfactory ideas for the proposed topics. Last but not least, we named and defined the topics in order to conduct the analysis of the selected topics (topical map number 3). Writing our objective analysis was the final stage of the topical map 3: specifying the traits and naming them.

Support sources
Difficulties of experienced daily life
Adaptation mechanisms
Visiting difficulties
Disturbed life
Social support
Family support
financial support
Going to religion
Involvement in social work






The findings will be presented according to the three main research questions. Most of the participants talked about their experience of being a member of a family which lives in the atmosphere of loss by means of the absence of the father and his imprisonment by the Israeli occupation and the consequences and problems of this which the members of these families live specially the children and the fear of the unknown and the future under the absence of the head of the family and the change in the roles inside these families. The children talked about their experiences as being from families which take pride in the existence of a father in the prison  to families which people treat with pity to a state of fear of dealing with these families.  The children talked about their relations with members of their extended families, their relationship with the society and the friends and about the support in its kinds. The children talked about the experience of visiting the Israeli prisons in order to visit the father and the sufferings from this visit. The children talked about how they overcame and acclimatized with these painful experiences and how they were able to get rid of the painful consequences of these experiences.

  1. Difficulties of the Experienced Daily Life

Many children expressed in different forms and ways   the psychological and social problems from which they suffer as a result of the imprisonment of the father in the Israeli prisons. They also expressed by means of talking their needs and longing and their feeling of the emptiness which this absence had left and about the need for support in many aspects of their life.

  1. The Disturbed Life

Some children expressed the feeling of loss and lackness. They talked about the effect of the father’s absence being in the occupation prison and the effect of this on their daily life whether at school or in the house whereby each of the following talked:

Sameh 12 years old talked about how the absence of his father affected the treatment by his elder brother for him.

It means if my father were here…my elder brother cannot do this to me…It means he prevents me from playing or he lets me sleep early and he controls me.

Whereby Sari  10 years old talked about the importance of the presence of his father to the school and how this matter affects the personality of Sari.

My father used to come with me to the school and he asks about me. He let me like the school…..When he used to come to school I felt proud of myself and proud of him.

Salma 12 years old added about the importance of the father and his existence even if he used punishment. He used to be interested in them more than others did.

My father used to have more interest in me than my mother and brothers did. I used to feel that when he punishes me, he did so for my interest or because of a bad grade.

Sireen 16 years old talked about the importance of and her need for the existence of her father beside her and how the absence affects her spirit in all the occasions.

The absence of my father makes me feel lackness and the need for many matters. My message for all the institutions is that I want my father. In the weddings and the occasions, people are joyous and I weep because my father does not exist.

Muhammad 14 years old talked about the secure refuge which is the father.

I always make recourse to my father in any matter even the school matters. Even if I knew the question I used to ask my father in order that I stay beside him..

Aminah 18 years old talked about the pain which the absence causes for all the members of the family.

The incarceration of the father does not only cause pain and suffering for the prisoner only who was deprived of his freedom only, but also the members of the family including the mother and children who suffer much. I as a prisoner’s daughter why I am deprived of my father while I am in dire need of support, protection and the source of security and so is the case with my mother and my brothers. It is a frightening thing when you need a source of support and security and you do not find it.

Haneen 15 years old talked about the extent of her longing and her need for bodily communication with her father, and about the subjugation which the incarceration causes.

I wish I could touch my father’s hand. This occupation commits a terrible crime against us as children. It takes care to subjugate us and make us suffer by our inability to live with our father or to communicate bodily with him.

Suha 17 years old suffers much pain due to the absence and because of the inability to communicate with the father.

For me, the clock of life has stopped from the time my father was incarcerated and from whom I was deprived of talking with him and touching him.

Riadh 12 years old talked about the pain of life without the father from birth till the following years of age, and how he compares himself with his colleagues when they talk about their fathers.

I was born and my father was in prison. He was incarcerated while I was in my mother’s womb. I did not enjoy an embrace from my father. So what is the guilt which I committed that makes me feel this pain?Even the word  ‘daddy’ I am deprived of it. I do not feel love, compassion and care about which my colleagues talk when they speak about their fathers.

Salaam 15 years old talked about the pain and exhaustion due to the news when an escalation occurs in the prisons.

When I hear the news about the violations which the prisons’ authorities undertake against the prisoners including torture or when the prisoners strike, my heart breaks of pain for my father and for what became of his circumstances and our circumstances.

Suhad 12 years old talked warmly and with pain about the extent of longing for communicating bodily with the father.

I yearn to hug my father. I yearn to touch the tenderness from his hands and to hug and embrace his bosom for he is my life and my age.

Saleem 15 years old talked about another source of annoyance and pain which is the interference of the surrounding society including family and friends in things which they should not interfere in.

In may cases, relatives and neighbours are a source of annoyance whereby they interfere in very private matters and this causes tiredness and exhaustion for us.

  1. Difficulties of Visiting

Many children talked about the visit and the exhaustion accompanying it. They talked about the longing for the visit and at the same time about the pains of this visit and what the occupation and the prisons authority do such as putting obstacles so that the visit becomes a piece of torture.

Husni 13 years old talked about the tiring things which he meets when he visits his father. These tiring things disappear by merely seeing his father. He wishes to be able to touch his father or embrace him, but this is forbidden.

In the visit if it occurs despite all its difficulties, when I see my father all the feeling of tiredness disappears. It occurs to me that he embraces me and I embrace him and to become near him and I touch him. But this is not permitted. We hardly know how to speak with him from behind the glass. The telephone through which we speak may not be suitable and  the voice is unclear.

Sundos 14 years old talked about the unproper and inhuman treatment of the families of the prisoners at the time of the visit and about the  wasted time in order to take 30 minutes and from behind the glass.

Upon the visit, we receive an unproper treatment. We remain in the buses for long periods, and in a waiting room which is unqualified. The visit consumes about 16 hours or more in order to be able to see my father from behind the glass for a period of 30 minutes and sometimes the earphones by which we speak are not good.

Nuha 16 years old talked about another kind of suffering whereby she added:

In the buses they make us get out of the buses and they let the dogs pass by us and our belongings so that they smell our belonging. I am very afraid of the dogs. The passage through which we pass is very narrow.

Haleemeh 16 years old added about the suffering in the visits which made her not to desire even the visit.

I do not like the visit and I go to it against my desire, and this is because of the many difficulties and pain which we face including checking points, bodily search, humiliation, and terrifying and smelling dogs. It is a trip all of which is tiredness and it is nearly 18 hours of travelling.

Alaa’ 17 years old talked about the difficulties in the visits and this put her before a challenge to prove to herself and to her father that she is able and she can.

My father was incarcerated when I was a small girl child. He was sentenced for life for more than one sentence. I used to go to visit when I was small, but because of tiredness I did not feel one day the pleasure of meeting. The trip was beyond my abilities. But this occupation and this dark prison made me in a challenge with myself. With the support from my mother and my grandfathers, I obtained a high average. I present this success to my father who is present in our hearts and all our rests and he who is absent from our embraces.

Shaher 14 years talked about the complete prevention of visiting his father.

My father has been deprived of visiting since more than 5 years. I have not seen him since that date. The visits were difficult and obtaining the permission was also difficult. However, we used to visit him once every two or three months.

Sari 17 years old talked about a childhood which is not like the childhood of children in the world, about a child who reaches the age of manhood and who is still in the age of childhood.

I got acquainted with my father from behind the glass and the barbed wires. My father was incarcerated while I was in my mother’s womb. I have not seen him except from afar and through the tortures of the prison and the warden. However, this matter made me grow up before my age. I did not live childhood, but rather I was born a man. This absence of my father and this challenge for life made be patient, try to be patient and bear the disasters of life in order to reach and succeed, and actually I did that, succeeded and realized the hope of my father and my family.

Sanaa’ 16 years old, her father is strictly forbidden from the visit.

My father is sentences for a total number of sentences which are more than 70 years. We are not allowed to visit. Sometimes our father talks with us through the telephone but in an illegal way because the telephone is forbidden for the incarcerated.

Husni 15 years old talked about the meanness of the occupation and that sometimes it returns them without visiting after all the toil and tiredness.

More than one time they made us return from the gate of the prison and we were not allowed to visit. We return after all this toil and tiredness without even a look at my father.


  1. The Support

The second topic which received importance among children and talked about it was the support in in its different forms, whether social, financial, family support and the support of the friends and how this matter has a great effect on the ability of the children whose fathers are in the Israeli prison. This support helped them to live, to accept and to overcome the difficulties of life.

1.Support of the Friends

Hasan 14 years old talked about the support from his friends and how they lessened what he is in.

I feel that my friends the boys feel with me and they tell me that God relieves your father and they always support me. They tell me that all of us are exposed to these matters. The teachers also try to lessen my suffering, help me more and they feel with me.

While Ahmad 16 years old also talked about his friends and how they encourage him to go for trips which help him overcome pain and suffering.

My friends offer me support continuously. They take me on trips so that this helps me to accept the situation which I live. Also my mother and my grandfathers give me a sort of responsibility and this helps me to forget and to acclimatize.

2.Financial Support

Sanaa’ 15 years old and others talked about the importance of financial support from the government or from the relatives.

The Palestinian Authority offers us a monthly salary which helps us to overcome the circumstances of life in addition to what my grandfather’s house offers us.

3.Social Support

Sawsan 17 years old talked about the support offered from the neighbours.

The neighbours are like my family. They always offer us support. I find in my female friend and neighbour a source of security for me. I talk to her what goes on in my mind and she offers me advice and support in a permanent way.

However, Muhammad 14 years old views that in the support and the good social treatment there is a positive effect.

The society in general offers us moral and social support. It views us with a view of pride and in it there are compassion and tenderness.

Layla 16 years old added about the support of the neighbours for her.

When I am upset with the school or with the female teachers, I do not like to raise my voice like some female students. I go home and I do not like to speak with anyone also. I have a book about study adjustment and I begin reading it. It is possible that I go to my female friend ‘my female neighbour’ and talk to her in order that I calm down.

  1. Adaptation

The children of the prisoners and because of the absence of the father and their protector, talked about the adaptation strategies which help to overcome the difficulties and the harsh circumstances of life.

1.The Strategy of Going to Religion

Ahmad 14 years old indicated the extent of comfort which he obtains through going to religion.

Many a time I find comfort in prayer and reading the Quran. They somehow help me to forget the pain from the loss.

Siham 17 years old added:

Reciting the Quran and memorizing it and also fasting help me in adapting with the present situation. I take recourse to God many times by means of supplication and this gives me much comfort.

2.The Strategy of Getting Involved in Athletic Clubs and Social Work Clubs

Selwa 15 years old and other children found sports and clubs and expanse to discharge their energies and their pains.

I take recourse to going to the club and playing sports to help me to adapt with the situation of loss from which I suffer.

Also Samer 15 years old:

I became affiliated to the football club in my village. This helps me in forgetting the pressures resulting from the absence of my father and to acclimatize with them.

Ahmad 16 years old talked about going to trips and how they have a good effect on his adaptation.

I go out with my friends on trips to the mountains or on group trips in buses whenever the circumstances permit. This gives me strength in accomplishing the plans which I put before me and realizing my dreams.

3.The Strategy of Planning and Taking Pride in the Father’s Life

Yazan 17 years old uses the strategy of planning, challenging and taking pride in what the father did. He added:

Yes, the absence of my father causes us pain, but this is our issue, and we do not abandon our land. The one who wants freedom, he has to sacrifice in order to get rid of the nightmare of the occupation. This is the message which gives me the strength to remain alive, to resist and to continue until we reach freedom. We must plan for a better future for the sake of the coming generations.

Ali 14 years old also added:

I am now in the sixth grade. Do you know that my father has not seen my teeth and he did not see my laughter? He did not call to prayer in my ear when I was born. Despite this I see and feel his breaths in every corner of the house and I feel that his spirit accompanies me in all the stations of my age. God willing the dream will become true.

Muhannad 17 years old talked about the life of his father among people and how it positively affects him to continue in life and giving.

My father’s life and his message in life is what made me a man who is relied upon in hardships. I take pride in being the son of a prisoner who offered the days of his youth for the sake of the homeland. This is what made me adapt with my days and with what I face. For the people’s knowledge of what my father has offered helps me to overcome difficulties.

Mustafa 14 years old added:

I take pride in my father and those who are like my father are the ones who made dignity for us. Despite the pain from his remoteness and his non-existence among us, I take pride in him, and this thing consoles me and makes me continue with my life without being broken.

Maha 15 years old also said:

My father was imprisoned because he is brave and he resists the Jewish occupier. He was not satisfied with humiliation. This thing is a source of pride for me. I take pride in what my father did and sure the day will come when he will get out of the prison and sees me as a source of pride for him too. I and my brothers will not disappoint him and we shall be the best people, God willing.

Hanan 16 years old added:

My father has been imprisoned since more than 12 years.  My father is not a number which is passed by without mentioning his name, his title and his life. My father is a story of sacrifice, a story of torture and pain, a story of pride and an honourable history for me and for my brothers.

Sawan 18 years old has achieved what her father had wished. So she was the good life story and the lamp by which she walks.

I have achieved what my father had wished from me. I obtained an average of 93. My father used to recommend to me in every visit two years ago. I am now prevented from visiting him. He always used to recommend to me to be hard-working and diligent. I have achieved what my father desired.

4.The Strategy of Acceptance

Sameeh 17 years old talked about the strategy of acceptance and going with life to the better.

My father has been in prison for more than 10 years. We got accustomed to accept this matter and this life. This has helped us to overcome the difficulties through which we pass.

Reham 16 years old added:

Life should go on. Our aspiring for the future makes it imperative for us to accept the matter and not yielding and weakness, this is life and it must go on.


The present study aims at concentrating on the difficulties from which the families of the Palestinian prisoners suffer in the case of the Israeli occupation and the absence of the father because of incarceration in the occupation prisons. They are difficulties which are related to the society inside the traditional system of the extended family, and the sources of support and the strategies of confrontation and adaptation which the children were able to obtain and practise under this pressure and problems resulting from the absence of the father. It is important in this study to study how these Palestinian children view their position and their surroundings, and also it is important to ascertain their ability to deal with these difficulties in such pressing and tense situations.

The Palestinian society is distinguished by being a traditional society and that it is cohesive. This means that the aims and behaviours of the individuals depend on the relationship with others (Al-Horani, 2011; Taylor et al., 2004). These include members of the family such as the parents, the children and the fathers in the law, as well as the neighbours, the friends, the colleagues and the institutions.

The results of this study specified that the majority of the children of the Palestinian fathers who are incarcerated by the Israeli occupation suffer from psychological and social difficulties and problems which are connected with the family and the interference in the decisions of these families by the grandfathers or the uncles. One of the children said thatmany a time the relatives and the neighbours are a source of annoyance whereby they interfere in very private matters”. This causes for us tiredness and exhaustion. Many children talked about the pain which accompanies the absence of the father. A girl child said that “for me the clock of life has stopped from the time in which my father was incarcerated and from whom I was deprived of talking with him and touching him”. Some of the children talked about the long torture and their need for bodily communication and how this has affected their mentalities and the level of their mental health. One of the children says:The absence of my father makes me feel lacking and in need for many matters. My message for all the institutions is that I want my father. Others said: In weddings and occasions, people are joyous and I weep because my father does not exist. Another child adds: I was born and my father was in prison. He was incarcerated when I was in my mother’s womb. I did not enjoy even one embrace from my father. So what is the guilt which I committed so that I feel this pain? Even the word ‘daddy’ I am deprived of it. I do not feel love, compassion and care about which my colleagues talk when they speak of their fathers.

The prevailing belief is that the cohesive societies and the extended families present a strong social support for its members. This is true to some extent. However, at the same time, this characteristic is full of the challenges pertaining to it. It may carry a double-edged weapon. The external form is offering support for the injured families and the other aspect is the flagrant interference in the private life of these families and their life decisions. Through the interview and positing questions to the children of the prisoners they expressed the extent of their need for support in all its kind and the most important kind is psychological and social support. They pointed out their need for moral support from the family and friends, whereby there is the negative effect on the emotional and mental side because of incarcerating the father and the feeling of loneliness and exhaustion because of this absence. They expressed their need for the existence of financial support which is represented by the existence of a monthly salary which is offered to these families to fulfil their needs and to exclude their need to ask people for financial support.

Feeling loneliness, loss of hope, the need for the father’s tenderness, bodily communication, talking about concerns and support in the school life, through all these matters, the children expressed their need for all kinds of support and which is remote from interfering in their private lives and the decisions of their families.

The results of the study in the first sub-title about the effect of the absence of the father in the place incarceration agreed with the results of each of (Folkman & Lazarus, 1988; Punamaki, 1986) concerning the emotional state of the losing children and their need for the existence of the father. This is natural under an Arab society which has customs and traditions which basically depend on the existence of the husband, the wife, the children and other members of the family who have an influence in the education process or what is called the extended family. Under the exclusive absence of the father, this will negatively affect the nature of the children’s life and specially when the roles become different and the mother receives the tasks of the mother and the father together.

Another kind of difficulties about which the children talked, is the difficulties of visiting, whereby the occupation goes too far in harassing the prisoners and their kins as a kind of group punishment and to lessen the will of the prisoner and his kins through these practices to the degree that one of the girls does not desire to visit despite the longing for her father. She says: “I do not like the visit and I go for it against my will, and this is because of the many difficulties and much pain which we face including checking points, bodily search, humiliation, fearful smelling dogs and a trip all of which is tiredness which takes about 18 hours of travel”.

Another child has absolutely not seen his father due to not permitting them to visit, whereby he says: My father is sentenced with a total number of sentences which are more than 70 years. The occupation does not permit us to visit. Some times our father talks with us through the telephone, but in an illegal way because the telephone is forbidden for the incarcerated. Another child has not seen his father since more than five years because of prevention by the occupation: My father is prevented form visiting since more than 5 years. I have not seen him from that date. The visits were difficult and obtaining the permits is also difficult. However, we used to visit him once every two or three months. This is in addition to other obstacles which the occupation puts before the relatives of the prisoners during the visit, the short time and the improper treatment. All these matters are used by the occupier to destroy the ability of this people to resist and to demand its rights. These results agree with the results reached by the Israeli Centre for Information on Human Rights in the Occupied Territories and the annual report of the Commission for Prisoners’ and Detainees’ Affairs (B’tselem , 2020; The Commission  for Prisoners’ and Detainees’ Affairs, 2019). This kind of suffering and loss has a direct relationship with the increasing levels of tensions and the feelings of despair among the Palestinian children who have fathers in Israeli prisons.

The second and the third research questions subsequently deal with the sources of support and adaptation strategies which may differ from each other but on the other hand they are closely connected with each other. The adaptation strategies are considered to be more complicated because they are conscious efforts which are exerted by the children and their relatives to deal with the pressures of life and the difficulties resulting from the loss of the father and the difference in the roles inside the family. The patterns and efficacy of these strategies depend on several factors including the kind and severity of the pressures, but they also depend on other circumstances such as the social environment, or the social mediators, how the others see what these children and their families have experienced, their relationship with them, the availability of means of communication and finally the individuals themselves.

The individual factors include how each child views himself, how those who surround him used to deal with him, and also the special meanings and experiences which connect them with what he passed through. According to (Skinner, 2007), there is a proposal that dealing with the pressures and the adaptation strategies is as a system and not as an individual process. The surrounding social network has an effect in how people deal with the exhausting and traumatic event and how they view it. The results of the present study support the proposal of this theory. This means that if you are inside an interrelated society, this means that your daily personal life is connected with the people surrounding you. Through our research we found that the social networks such as the mothers, the brothers, the children, the friends and the teachers in the schools have a big role in offering support for most of the children and in lessening the effect of the pain resulting from the detention of their fathers, and in lessening the tension resulting from interfering by others, in addition to the pressures of the occupation itself. These results were in agreement with (Ahern et al., 2004; Taylor et al., 2004; Bultmannn et al., 2002; Olstad et al., 2001).

On the contrary of the persons who receive low levels of social support, you find them less resistant to the cases of exertion (Cohen & Wills, 1985). For the Palestinian society by its nature likes to offer aid, help and support and this lessens from these families the calamity in which they are. The positive personal network relations and good social support may lessen the result of the pressures, and this is what actually happened with these children.

The confrontation strategies which these children used mostly was the strategy of going to religion. This follows from the religious nature of the majority of the Palestinian society. For prayer, reading the Quran, supplication and religious lessons in the mosques help the children in finding comfort, tranquillity and keeping away the ghost of tension and pressure and in the end continuing life.  The strategy of acceptance, learning to live with this situation and accepting the fact that this tragedy has in fact occurred, by accepting the result of the situation and living in order to live in a good way and a better life for the family and the child.  The strategy of planning and the life story of the struggling and fighting father which gave a kind of and an amount of support for these children and helped them in putting a plan for getting out of this crisis and that they become what their fathers wanted them to be, and knowing what must be done on the short term and on the long run through planned steps, such as seeking to obtain a high average and subsequently higher education at the university. One girl child: I have achieved what my father wished from me. I have obtained an average of 93. My father always recommended to me in each visit two years ago. I am now prevented from visiting. He always used to recommend that I become industrious and diligent. I have achieved what my father wished. This is the state of many children. The strategy of adaptation through going to social and athletic clubs. Some of these children participate in the social and athletic activities to lessen the amount of time which they spend individually and which may arouse negative ideas. One of the children says: I recourse to going to the club and playing sports to help me adapt with the situation of loss from which I suffer. Our results were in agreement with (Shehadeh et al, 2016; Yahya Al-Haj, 1994; Lafier, Ben-David and Azeezeh, 1997). According to the nature of the Palestinian society, these strategies of adaptation which were specified as being strategies for adaptation are the same strategies which are found in Carver Measure (1997) who put 14 strategies in the same scope to which people recourse when they face exhausting problems and situations.


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Appendix I

What are the problems which faced you as a son of an incarcerated?

Do you receive any kind of support?

How do you describe the sources of social and psychological support which you have received?

How do you describe needs which you missed as a result of the incarceration of the father?

Did the imprisonment of your father affect your relationship with your friends and members of your family?

Do you feel that life may be fluctuant in the case of the non-existence of the father? Is it possible for the mother to play the role of the father under his absence? If this is not so, are there alternatives for the role of the father?

How do you express your emotion and your anger under this situation and with the persons who surround you?

What is the kind of gap which the father left as a result of his absence?

What are the strong and weak situations through which you pass after the arrest of the father?

How do you see your relationship with your extended family?

How do you view your relationship with your mother and your brothers?

How do you see the view of the society of you?

Do you visit your father? If the answer is ‘yes’, can you describe the process of visiting since the first moment of departing the house till the return?

If it has been predetermined for you to choose the father, will you choose the same father? Why?

Where do you find the secure place? Why?

How do you deal with this situation?

How do you view life under this situation?



[1] – Head of Psychology Department – Al Istiqlal University

[2] – Department of Psychoeducation and Psychology University of Quebec in Outaouais

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