Parental Incarceration and Child Wellbeing: Implications for Urban Families.

Columbia University.
Social Science Quarterly (Impact Factor: 0.99). 12/2009; 90(5):1186-1202. DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-6237.2009.00653.x
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT OBJECTIVE: Using a population-based, longitudinal family survey (N=4,898), we identify economic, residential, and developmental risks particular to the children of incarcerated parents. METHODS: We use parental reports of incarceration history, demographic background, and a rich set of child and family outcomes, in a series of multivariate regression models. RESULTS: Children of incarcerated parents face more economic and residential instability than their counterparts. Sons of incarcerated fathers display more behavior problems, though other developmental differences are insignificant. CONCLUSIONS: We find that incarceration identifies families facing severe hardship, which cannot be explained by other observed family characteristics. Given the prevalence of incarceration, our findings suggest that a large population of children suffers unmet material needs, residential instability, and behavior problems. These risks may be best addressed by using the point of incarceration as an opportunity for intervention and the administration of age-appropriate social services.

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    ABSTRACT: Objectives: This research examines the association between paternal incarceration and children’s delinquency. Prior research suggests an association, although omitted variable bias is an enduring issue. Methods: To help address issues related to unobserved heterogeneity, we employ a method uncommonly used in criminological research. Rather than comparing the children of incarcerated fathers to respondents who have never had a father incarcerated, we exploit the longitudinal nature of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health to generate a strategic comparison group: respondents who will have a father incarcerated in the future. We also examine two types of delinquency, expressive and instrumental, to infer plausible mechanisms linking paternal incarceration and delinquency. Results: When using “futures” as comparison cases, results differ from much prior work and suggest a spurious association between paternal incarceration and instrumental delinquency (e.g., theft). Paternal incarceration retains a significant effect on expressive delinquency, which is partly mediated by reduced attachment to fathers. Conclusions: The association between paternal incarceration and expressive (but not instrumental) crime supports Agnew’s strain theory and elements of control theory. Our comparison group also offers important advantages in terms of addressing unobserved heterogeneity, and we think this approach would prove useful for other topics in criminology.
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    ABSTRACT: We use data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study to consider the effects of maternal incarceration on 21 caregiver- and teacher-reported behavioral problems among 9-year-old children. The results suggest three primary conclusions. First, children of incarcerated mothers are a disadvantaged group that exhibit high levels of caregiver- and teacher-reported behavioral problems. Second, after we adjust for selection, the effects of maternal incarceration on children's behavioral problems are consistently null (for 19 of 21 outcomes) and rarely positive (1 of 21) or negative (1 of 21), suggesting that the poor outcomes of these children are driven by disadvantages preceding maternal incarceration rather than incarceration. These effects, however, vary across race/ethnicity, with maternal incarceration diminishing caregiver-reported behavioral problems among non-Hispanic whites. Finally, in models considering both maternal and paternal incarceration, paternal incarceration is associated with more behavioral problems, which is consistent with previous research and suggests that the null effects of maternal incarceration are not artifacts of our sample or analytic decisions.
    Demography 04/2014; 51(3). · 1.93 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Stress proliferation theory suggests that parental incarceration may have deleterious intergenerational health consequences. In this study, I use data from the 2011-2012 National Survey of Children's Health (NSCH) to estimate the relationship between parental incarceration and children's fair or poor overall health, a range of physical and mental health conditions, activity limitations, and chronic school absence. Descriptive statistics show that children of incarcerated parents are a vulnerable population who experience disadvantages across an array of health outcomes. After adjusting for demographic, socioeconomic, and familial characteristics, I find that parental incarceration is independently associated with learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, behavioral or conduct problems, developmental delays, and speech or language problems. Taken together, results suggest that children's health disadvantages are an overlooked and unintended consequence of mass incarceration and that incarceration, given its unequal distribution across the population, may have implications for population-level racial-ethnic and social class inequalities in children's health.
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