Changing perspectives: Increasing empathy in incarcerated fathers through social games

Back ground

Today, there are 4000 prisoners in Denmark. All of them have families and most of them have children living outside the prison walls.


According to Statistics Denmark 3% of all Danish children have at some point in their life experienced the imprisonment of a parent.


At any point in time around 4,500 children have a mother or father in prison. Parental incarceration is documented to cause a range of developmental problems for children.


However, empirical studies have suggested that well-­designed interventions, which support inmates in their parenting role and sustain proximal process with their children, can have a positive effect on parenting post release and children’s well-­being. 


The aim of the project

 The overall objective of the project is to design, pilot test and implement innovative social games as a means to strengthen broken interpersonal relations between children and their incarcerated fathers.


More specifically, we will design a working game prototype to be usertested in family therapy in 3 maximum security prisons (Enner Mark, Nyborg and Søbysøgaard) to train and build up empathy in incarcerated fathers.


By increasing empathy in these fathers it is hypothesized that their children will also be helped to increase coping abilities and resilience towards the problems that results from parental incarceration.


This hypothesis is supported by empirical studies in criminology and psychology that have made it evident that children’s wellbeing and attachment are relying on incarcerated parent’s empathy.

The project outcome

Developing, testing and evaluating innovative social games to increase empathy in inmates, thus helping to increase the well-being and resilience of their children to problems posed by their parents' imprisonment.


Work package leader: Thomas Markussen, Associate Professor, Department of Design & Communication


Linda Kjær Minke, Associate Professor, Department of Law
Ask Elklit, Professor, Department of Psychology
Mette Kjærsgaard, Associate Professor, Department of Design & Communication
Johannes Wagner, Professor, Department of Design & Communication
Kristian Mortensen, Associate Professor, Department of Design & Communication
Eva Knutz, Post.doc., Department of Design & Communication
Tau Lenskjold, Post.doc., Department of Design & Communication

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