“Go and look in the mirror and make a change mum”: Motherhood and identity change in women’s desistance in Aotearoa New Zealand

Ms Grace Low1

1University of Auckland

This presentation explores preliminary findings from a PhD project regarding the role of motherhood in women’s desistance from crime in Aotearoa New Zealand. The findings are based on narrative interviews with a sample of mothers with histories of incarceration. This presentation argues that for most of the women in the sample becoming a mother for the first time was not sufficient by itself to initiate the desistance process. However, adopting the role of mother became important later in the women’s journeys, once they had experienced cognitive shifts towards more pro-social (and drug and crime free) identities. The presentation first examines the women’s early experiences of motherhood and the many personal, social and structural circumstances that could complicate their potential to perceive motherhood as an opportunity for change. It then examines the women’s experiences of motherhood later in life following their conscious efforts towards desistance.


Grace Low is a Doctoral student at the University of Auckland School of Social Sciences. She received a master’s degree in Sociology from the University of Canterbury. Her current interests are in women’s experiences of desistance from crime, with a particular focus on motherhood, social relationships and housing.


Dec 09 2021