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Joyce Arditti recognized for disciplined research on families of the incarcerated


Joyce Arditti Joyce Arditti

BLACKSBURG, Va., Sept. 28, 2012 – Joyce Arditti admits that she has “long been preoccupied with issues of equality, fairness, and social justice.” 

The professor of human development at Virginia Tech is known both nationally and internationally for her disciplined study of marginalized groups, publishing numerous empirical and review articles in therapy, social work, family studies, psychology and criminal justice journals. For her outstanding and enduring contributions to family science in the areas of scholarship, teaching, outreach, and professional service, the National Council on Family Relations recently conferred its organization’s prestigious Fellow status on Arditti.

Arditti’s research examines family disruption, parent-child relationships in vulnerable families, and public policy. More specifically, she has focused on parental incarceration, as well as the children and families of incarcerated parents, which culminated with a recently published book entitled “Parental Incarceration and the Family.”

In the United States, more than 1.7 million children have a parent in prison. These children experience very real disadvantages when compared to their peers, including social exclusion, lower levels of educational success, and even a higher likelihood of their own future incarceration. Through the use of exemplars, anecdotes, and reflections, Arditti puts a human face on the mass of humanity behind bars, as well as those family members who are affected by a parent’s imprisonment. Much of the book is based on Arditti’s own fieldwork.

“I initially became interested in the criminal justice system when a close friend of mine was involved in the federal system for a drug charge in 1996,” said Arditti. “My friend was sentenced and convicted and I ultimately visited him at the facility where he was held many times.”

As a result of her time there, Arditti would talk to the other families that were also waiting to visit. “I began to see how relationships formed among visitors and everyone had a story and set of experiences with the criminal justice system that were profoundly influential in shaping their lives and the developmental trajectory of any children who were visiting,” she said. “What struck me the most was the sense of stigma and shame that all visitors seemed to share with the inmate as well as the sense of anger at the system.

“I realized I had entered into a 'hidden pocket' of experience due to my insider status as a visitor and that these stories of families impacted by incarceration needed to be told. I have never witnessed so much pain, vulnerability, and also strength, as I had amongst these families who were also 'doing time' with the incarcerated person.”

Passionate about addressing the needs of underserved families, Arditti interfaces with community and state agencies that provide services to at-risk individuals and families.

She has disseminated her findings to federal and state policymakers, and presented research on two occasions to the Western Region Probation Unit. She has engaged in outreach with Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Virginia and conducted two trainings that highlight the issue of child trauma and ways to work with families with a parent incarcerated. Arditti has also presented internationally in Asia and Europe on maternal distress and parental incarceration to audiences composed of both academics and practitioners. Her outreach efforts were recognized in 2007 when she received the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences Excellence in Outreach Award.

Arditti served as the editor for Family Relations: Interdisciplinary Journal of Applied Family Studies for five years. At Virginia Tech, Arditti has served on numerous theses and dissertation committees and led student groups to Mexico and Columbia on education abroad opportunities.

Arditti received her Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, her master’s degree from the University Connecticut, and her bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia.

The College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at Virginia Tech includes programs in the arts, humanities, social and human sciences, and education. The college seeks to illuminate human experience and expression by creating works of lasting scholarly, cultural, and aesthetic value; empower individuals to engage critically with the complexities of a diverse, global society; and foster the inquiry, innovation, and growth that produce individual and social transformation.