Article

The Longitudinal Associations Between Paternal Incarceration and Family Well-Being: Implications for Ethnic-Racial Disparities in Health

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Abstract

Objective Ethnic-racial minority children in the United States are more likely to experience father loss to incarceration than White children, and limited research has examined the health implications of these ethnic-racial disparities. Telomere length is a biomarker of chronic stress that is predictive of adverse health outcomes. We examined whether paternal incarceration predicted telomere length shortening among youth from childhood to adolescence, whether maternal depression mediated the link, and whether ethnicity-race moderated our results. Method Research participants were 2,395 families in the Fragile Families and Child Well-being Study, a national and longitudinal cohort study of primarily low-income families from 20 large cities in the United States. Key constructs were measured when children were on average ages 9 (2007–2010) and 15 (2014-2017). Results Children who experienced paternal incarceration exhibited shorter telomere lengths between ages 9 and 15, and changes in maternal depression mediated our finding. Specifically, mothers who experienced a partner’s incarceration were more likely to have depression between children’s ages 9 and 15. In turn, increases in maternal depression between children’s ages 9 and 15 predicted more accelerated telomere length shortening among children during this period. Paternal incarceration was more prevalent and frequent for ethnic-racial minority youth than for White youth. Conclusion Paternal incarceration is associated with a biomarker of chronic stress among children in low-income families. Rates of paternal incarceration were more prevalent and frequent among Black American and multi-ethnic-racial families than among White Americans. As a result, the criminal justice system’s mass incarceration crisis is likely shaping intergenerational ethnic-racial health disparities.

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... Children with incarcerated fathers experience the trauma of father loss (Arditti, 2016), economic instability (Geller et al., 2011), and disruption in family structure (Turney & Wildeman, 2013). Because paternal incarceration reduces the interpersonal and conventional resources necessary for children's socioemotional well-being, children growing up with incarcerated fathers tend to exhibit psychological (Gifford et al., 2019;Jackson et al., 2021), physical (Del Toro et al., 2021;Lee et al., 2013), behavioral (Boch et al., 2019;Murray, Farrington, et al., 2012;Ruhland et al., 2020), and academic maladjustment (Haskins, 2017;Jacobsen, 2019;. ...
... For instance, fathers with a history of incarceration are unlikely to find employment and receive employmentand family-related benefits (i.e., health insurance; Laub, 2014;Turney, 2017), limiting mothers views toward their partners as marriageable men who can provide financial support to the family and increasing couples' likelihood of divorce or separation (Geller, 2013;Widdowson et al., 2020). As mothers contend with decreased romantic relationship quality and the challenges associated with a single mother status (Del Toro et al., 2021;Wildeman et al., 2012), children of incarcerated fathers are more likely to stay low-income over time (Pew Charitable Trusts, 2010), live in a single-parent household (Geller et al., 2012), and experience neglectful or harsh parenting (Turney, 2014a). ...
Article
The present study sought to unravel the psychological processes through which mass incarceration, specifically paternal incarceration, is negatively affecting the next generation of children. Data came from 4,327 families from 20 cities who participated in a 10-year longitudinal study. Parents and children reported on children’s rule-breaking behaviors and depressive symptoms when they were on average ages 5 (2003–2006), 9 (2007–2010), and 15 (2014–2017). Parental surveys and disposition information were combined to assess paternal incarceration at each age. Results showed that children who experienced paternal incarceration at age 5 also demonstrated more rule-breaking behaviors at age 15. Children’s age-9 depressive symptoms partially mediated our finding, such that children who experienced paternal incarceration at age 5 also showed greater depressive symptoms at age 9, which in turn predicted greater rule-breaking behaviors at age 15. Paternal incarceration predicted future rule-breaking behaviors more strongly than did other forms of father loss. Because we found paternal incarceration during childhood is associated with worsened adjustment into adolescence, we discussed the need for developmentally appropriate practices in the criminal justice system.
... Yet, our pattern of findings aligns with studies that have used non-survey measures of discrimination and adolescents' adjustment outcomes. [37][38][39] Also, the intensive longitudinal nature of the present study provided us with a 58-day snapshot of youths' experiences, which is a relatively short time period. Scholars should consider a more longterm longitudinal study to understand whether and how our findings hold over the course of adolescence. ...
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Objective To determine whether rates of online racial discrimination changed over the course of 2020 and their longitudinal effects on Black youth’s mental health. Method This longitudinal study collected 18,454 daily assessments from a nationally representative sample of 602 Black and White adolescents in the United States (58% Black, 42% White; Mage = 15.09, SDage = 1.56) across 58 days during the heightened racial tensions between March and November 2020. Results Black youth experienced increases in online racial discrimination, and these increases were not fully explained by time spent online nor general cybervictimization experiences. Online racial discrimination predicted poorer same- and next-day mental health among Black youth but not among White youth. Black youth’s mental health did not predict their online racial discrimination experiences. Conclusion Online racial discrimination has implications for shaping mental health disparities that disadvantage Black youth relative to their White peers. Programs can be implemented to decrease online hate crimes, and health providers (e.g., pediatricians, psychiatrists) should develop procedures that mitigate the negative mental health effects following online racial discrimination experiences.
... Fourth, we did not measure and could not account for crime rates, which likely biased the consequences linked to police stops (Boxer et al., 2020). Fifth, police-related deaths and other forms of criminal justice contact in youth's neighborhoods have predicted their physiological stress responses (Browning et al., 2021;Del Toro et al., 2022), but whether such stress mediates the link between police encounters and youth's academic functioning is unclear. Sixth, we did not account for police officers' social demographics (e.g., ethnicity-race), which can moderate their engagement in stops (Ba et al., 2021). ...
Article
Negative interactions with the legal system can inform adolescents' relationships with schools. The present daily-diary study examined 13,545 daily survey assessments from 387 adolescents (Mage = 13-14; 40% male; 32% Black, 50% White, and 18% Other ethnic-racial minority) across 35 days to assess whether police stops predicted adolescents' school disengagement through their psychological distress as a mediator. Results showed that 9% of youth experienced at least one police stop, and 66 stops occurred in total over the 35-day study course. Youth stopped by the police reported greater next-day school disengagement, and youth's psychological distress mediated the link between police stops and school disengagement. Disengagement did not predict youth's next-day police stops. In addition, ethnic-racial minority youth reported more negative police encounters than did White youth, and the effect of a police stop on next-day psychological distress was more negative for Other ethnic-racial minority youth. Implications for reducing police intervention in adolescents' lives are discussed. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).
Article
Background: Immigrant Arab American families face multiple stressors related to migration and resettlement. Telomere length (TL) is an established biomarker of aging and psychosocial stress. No published studies have concurrently examined the association between maternal and paternal psychosocial factors and infants’ TL. The purpose of this study was to: (1) compare mother, father, and infant TLs; (2) explore the association of maternal and paternal psychosocial factors (acculturative stress and depressive symptoms) with maternal and paternal TL; and (3) explore the association of maternal and paternal psychosocial factors with infants’ TL among Arab American immigrants. Method: Using a cross-sectional exploratory design, a sample of 52 immigrant Arab American mother-father-infant triads were recruited from community centers. Data were collected in a single home visit when the infant was 6–24 months old. Each parent completed the study questionnaires addressing their psychosocial factors (acculturative stress, and depressive symptoms), then parents and infants provided buccal cell for TL measurement. Results: Maternal TL was positively correlated to infants’ TL ( r = .31, p = .04) and significantly shorter ( p < .001). Paternal TL was not correlated with infant TL but was significantly shorter than infant’s TL ( p < .001). Maternal depression was significantly correlated with mothers’ TL ( r = .4, p = .007). Higher levels of maternal depressive symptoms were significantly associated with shorter infant TL when controlling for background characteristics. Conclusions: Our pilot study is the first study to examine maternal and paternal psychosocial factors related to migration and infants’ TL. More research is needed to advance our understanding of the effects of immigration on the intergenerational transfer of stress and trauma.
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Objective Research has implicated incarceration exposure as a social determinant of health, with recent work suggesting incarceration may trigger a stress response that accelerates physiological deterioration. The objective of the current study is to assess whether neighborhood stressors intensify the health consequences of incarceration exposure. Methods We test whether two neighborhood context measures – socioeconomic disadvantage and perceived crime – moderate the association between incarceration exposure and a measure of accelerated epigenetic aging based on the GrimAge index. Our sample included 408 African American young adults from the Family and Community Health study. Results Results from regression analyses with inverse probability of treatment weights suggest that incarceration exposure and neighborhood disadvantage are independently associated with accelerated biological aging. The results suggest that the impact of incarceration exposure on accelerated aging is amplified for individuals in neighborhoods with higher levels of perceived crime. Conclusions These findings indicate that the neighborhood contexts where formerly incarcerated individuals return have a substantial impact on their pace of biological aging. Policies aimed at reducing ambient stressors after release may promote healthy aging among formerly incarcerated African American adults.
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Objectives This prospective longitudinal study tested the impact of childhood adversity, including community violence exposure, on hypertension risk in Black American young adults to understand what risk factors (e.g., prenatal factors and/or later exposures) and ages of adversity exposure increased hypertension risk. Study design The study included 396 Black American participants with data from prenatal, birth, and age 7-, 14-, and 19-year visits. At age 19, individuals with blood pressure (BP) measures >120 mmHg systolic and or >80 mmHg diastolic were classified as high blood pressure (HBP) and those with <120/80 as normal. Relations between prenatal and birth risk factors, childhood adversity at ages 7, 14 and 19 years, age 19 body mass index (BMI), and both systolic and diastolic BP at age 19 were tested using logistic regression models. Results Age 19 BMI was positively associated with systolic and diastolic HBP status at age 19. Controlling for all covariates, community violence exposure at ages 7 and 19 was associated with 2.2- (95% Confidence interval (CI)[1.242, 3.859]) and 2.0- (95% CI[1.052, 3.664]) fold greater odds of systolic HBP at 19, respectively. Prenatal risk, birth risk, and other dimensions of childhood adversity were not associated with HBP in this cohort. Conclusion Childhood community violence exposure is a significant risk factor for HBP in young adults. As Black American children typically experience more community violence exposure than other American children, our results suggest that racial disparities in childhood community violence exposure may contribute to racial disparities in adult hypertension burden
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Objectives Parental imprisonment is linked with child health in later life. The present study provides the first prospective cohort analysis and non-U.S. based study examining parental imprisonment and cardiometabolic risk factors in adolescence and adulthood. Methods The study followed 7,223 children born from live, singleton births from 1981-1984 in Brisbane, Australia. Data on parental imprisonment was collected at mother interview when the children were ages 5 and 14. Our sample analyzes offspring with biometric data collected by health professionals, including 3,794 at age 14, 2,136 at age 21, and 1,712 at age 30. Analyses used multivariate linear and logistic regression, and time-varying growth curve models. Results Among female respondents, parental imprisonment at ages ≤5 was associated with higher body-mass index (BMI) at ages 14, 21, and 30; higher systolic blood pressure (SBP) and diastolic blood pressure (DBP) at age 30; and increased sedentary hours, larger waist circumference, and odds of a high-risk waist circumference at age 30. Parental imprisonment when the child was aged ≤14 was associated with increased BMI and SBP at age 30 for females. In growth-curve models, parental imprisonment when the child was aged ≤5 and ≤ 14 among females was linked with increased BMI; parental imprisonment when the child was aged ≤5 was associated with increased SBP and DBP. No significant associations were observed for males. Conclusions Using prospective cohort data, our results support research showing that parental imprisonment, particularly in early childhood, is associated with increased BMI, blood pressure, sedentary hours, and waist circumference in females in early adulthood. These findings implicate parental imprisonment as a risk factor for cardiometabolic health issues in later life among females.
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Telomere attrition is associated with increased morbidity and mortality of various age-related diseases. Reports of association between telomere length (TL) and all-cause mortality remain inconsistent. In the present study, a meta-analysis was performed using published cohort studies and un-published data from the Swedish Twin Registry (STR). Twenty-five studies were included: four STR cohorts (12,083 individuals with 2517 deaths) and 21 published studies. In the STR studies, one standard deviation (SD) decrement of leukocyte TL corresponded to 13% increased all-cause mortality risk (95% confidence interval [CI]: 7%-19%); individuals in the shortest TL quarter had 44% higher hazard (95% CI: 27%-63%) than those in the longest quarter. Meta-analysis of all eligible studies (121,749 individuals with 21,763 deaths) revealed one SD TL decrement-associated hazard ratio of 1.09 (95% CI: 1.06-1.13); those in the shortest TL quarter had 26% higher hazard (95% CI: 15%-38%) compared to the longest quarter, although between-study heterogeneity was observed. Analyses stratified by age indicated that the hazard ratio was smaller in individuals over 80 years old. In summary, short telomeres are associated with increased all-cause mortality risk in the general population. However, TL measurement techniques and age at measurement contribute to the heterogeneity of effect estimation.
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A growing literature suggests that exposure to adverse social conditions may accelerate biological aging, offering one mechanism through which adversity may increase risk for age-related disease. As one of the most extensively studied biological markers of aging, telomere length (TL) provides a valuable tool to understand potential influences of social adversity on the aging process. Indeed, a sizeable literature now links a wide range of stressors to TL across the life span. The aim of this article is to review and evaluate this extant literature with a focus on studies that investigate psychosocial stress exposures and experiences in early life and adulthood. We conclude by outlining potential biological and behavioral mechanisms through which psychosocial stress may influence TL, and we discuss directions for future research in this area. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Public Health, Volume 41 is April 1, 2020. Please see http://www.annualreviews.org/page/journal/pubdates for revised estimates.
Article
The U.S. incarceration rate rose dramatically over the past 45 years, increasing the number of marriages and cohabiting unions disrupted by a jail or prison stay. But as some have pointed out, not all unions dissolve as a result of incarceration, and there seems to be racial–ethnic variation in this tendency, with Blacks displaying higher rates of dissolution than Whites and Hispanics. Yet it is unclear what explains racial–ethnic differences in union dissolution among the incarcerated. Drawing on the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 (NLSY97), we examine why racial–ethnic differences in union dissolution exist among a sample of individuals who had a marital or a cohabiting union interrupted by an incarceration spell. In doing so, we draw on social exchange theory and structural and cultural theories to suggest that racial–ethnic disparities in union dissolution are explained by differential exposure to protective relationship characteristics. The results of Cox hazard models reveal that Blacks have significantly higher hazards of union dissolution than do Whites and Hispanics. These results also indicate that being married, having a child together, having full‐time employment, a longer union duration, and a shorter incarceration spell may protect against dissolution and that these factors account, in part, for the greater risk of dissolution among Blacks relative to Whites and Hispanics.
Article
Background: Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are an identified risk factor for the social and emotional development of children. What is less known is the long-term effects of ACEs when poverty and ACEs coincide. Objective: Using longitudinal cohort-panel data, we examined whether exposure to ACEs by the age of three among poor children would longitudinally result in behavioral problems at ages three, five, nine, and 15, after controlling for mothers' socioeconomic status and their children's characteristics. Participants and setting: We used a subsample of 2750 children and their parents living in urban poverty from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing study. Methods: Logistic regression modeling was used to obtain adjusted odds ratios of ACE categories predicting behavioral problems after accounting for family socioeconomic position. Results: Our findings indicate that experiencing ACEs in early childhood was significantly associated with later behavioral outcomes from childhood to adolescence. Exposure to multiple ACEs before the age of three was significantly associated with the top-risk behavior group at age five; the odd ratios were 2.0 (CI = 1.3-3.1) and 2.9 (CI = 1.8-4.6) for two ACEs and three or more ACEs, respectively. At both ages nine and 15, children experiencing two or more ACEs had 1.9 to 3.2 times higher odds to demonstrate more the top 10th percentile of behavioral problems. Among covariates, mothers' race and education, and children's gender and temperament were identified as significant factors to determine behavior problems. Conclusions: The findings support policies and programs for families with children who have experienced economic disadvantages and early childhood adversity.
Article
Stigma has frequently been described as one of the unintended consequences of parental incarceration yet little research has been conducted on this issue with children and young people. This article examines and conceptualizes the experiences of stigma for children who have experienced parental incarceration in the Australian Capital Territory, Australia. The article reports on the findings of a qualitative study designed to investigate children's experiences of parental incarceration. Semi-structured interviews were carried out with 16 children. The results of this study demonstrate that stigma associated with parental incarceration manifests in children's lives in different and distinct ways. Despite these differences, children and young people describe three key strategies to manage the stigma that they experience: maintaining privacy and withholding information; self- exclusion and self-reliance, and managing peer relationships. The policy and practice implications of these findings are discussed.
Article
Mass incarceration has profoundly restructured the life courses of not only marginalized adult men for whom this event is now so prevalent but also their families. We examined research published from 2000 to 2017 on the consequences of parental incarceration for child health in the United States. In addition to focusing on specific health outcomes, we also considered broader indicators of child well-being because there has been little research on the association between parental incarceration and objectively measured child health outcomes. Our findings support 4 conclusions. First, paternal incarceration is negatively associated-possibly causally so-with a range of child health and well-being indicators. Second, although some research has suggested a negative association between maternal incarceration and child health, the evidence on this front is mixed. Third, although the evidence for average effects of paternal incarceration on child health and well-being is strong, research has also suggested that some key factors moderate the association between paternal incarceration and child health and well-being. Finally, because of the unequal concentration of parental incarceration and the negative consequences this event has for children, mass incarceration has increased both intracountry inequality in child health in the United States and intercountry inequality in child health between the United States and other developed democracies. In light of these important findings, investment in data infrastructure-with emphasis on data sets that include reliable measures of parental incarceration and child health and data sets that facilitate causal inferences-is needed to understand the child health effects of parental incarceration.
Article
Background and objectives: Father loss during childhood has negative health and behavioral consequences, but the biological consequences are unknown. Our goal was to examine how father loss (because of separation and/or divorce, death, or incarceration) is associated with cellular function as estimated by telomere length. Methods: Data come from the 9-year follow-up of the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a birth cohort study of children in 20 large American cities (N = 2420). Principal measures are as follows: salivary telomere length (sTL), mother reports of father loss, and polymorphisms in genes related to serotonergic and dopaminergic signaling. Results: At 9 years of age, children with father loss have significantly shorter telomeres (14% reduction). Paternal death has the largest association (16%), followed by incarceration (10%), and separation and/or divorce (6%). Changes in income partially mediate these associations (95% mediation for separation and/or divorce, 30% for incarceration, and 25% for death). Effects are 40% greater for boys and 90% greater for children with the most reactive alleles of the serotonin transporter genes when compared with those with the least reactive alleles. No differences were found by age at father loss or a child's race/ethnicity. Conclusions: Father loss has a significant association with children's sTL, with the death of a father showing the largest effect. Income loss explains most of the association between child sTL and separation and/or divorce but much less of the association with incarceration or death. This underscores the important role of fathers in the care and development of children and supplements evidence of the strong negative effects of parental incarceration.
Article
Early adversity, in the form of abuse, neglect, socioeconomic status and other adverse experiences, is associated with poor physical and mental health outcomes. To understand the biologic mechanisms underlying these associations, studies have evaluated the relationship between early adversity and telomere length, a marker of cellular senescence. Such results have varied in regard to the size and significance of this relationship. Using meta-analytic techniques, we aimed to clarify the relationship between early adversity and telomere length while exploring factors affecting the association, including adversity type, timing and study design. A comprehensive search in July 2016 of PubMed/MEDLINE, PsycINFO and Web of Science identified 2462 studies. Multiple reviewers appraised studies for inclusion or exclusion using a priori criteria; 3.9% met inclusion criteria. Data were extracted into a structured form; the Newcastle-Ottawa Scale assessed study quality, validity and bias. Forty-one studies (N=30 773) met inclusion criteria. Early adversity and telomere length were significantly associated (Cohen’s d effect size=−0.35; 95% CI, –0.46 to –0.24; P<0.0001). Sensitivity analyses revealed no outlier effects. Adversity type and timing significantly impacted the association with telomere length (P<0.0001 and P=0.0025, respectively). Subgroup and meta-regression analyses revealed that medication use, medical or psychiatric conditions, case–control vs longitudinal study design, methodological factors, age and smoking significantly affected the relationship. Comprehensive evaluations of adversity demonstrated more extensive telomere length changes. These results suggest that early adversity may have long-lasting physiological consequences contributing to disease risk and biological aging.
Article
A Family Stress-Proximal Process (FSPP) model is advanced for examining the effects of parental incarceration on children, which situates parental incarceration as a stressor that influences psychological and proximal relational processes in the family. Proximal processes encompass person–environment interactions that broadly involve psychological distress and unresolved loss, as well as alterations in parenting and the need for children to spend time directly in prison settings if they visit the incarcerated parent. These processes occur within a context of social inequality that contribute to the difficulties families experience. The ways in which these processes influence child adjustment are examined as well as the implications of an FSPP framework for methodological innovation and intervention aimed at promoting child and family resilience.
Article
More than 2 million American children have a parent incarcerated, making the consequences of parental incarceration for families a critical concern. A growing literature documents significant challenges not only among incarcerated men, but also among their spouses, partners, and children. Much remains to be learned about these experiences, however; and the data available for doing so are limited. In this article, we demonstrate how the quality of available data on paternal incarceration can be improved by supplementing a leading population-based survey of families with administrative records on criminal history from a state criminal justice agency. This administrative supplement provides only a low-end estimate of the extent of criminal justice involvement in our sample, but still increases the number of fathers identified with criminal histories by more than 20 percent. Building on such a supplement—in our current survey or future ones—could improve the identification of justice-involved fathers on a broader scale.
Article
Importance: Psychological stress contributes to numerous diseases and may do so in part through damage to telomeres, protective non-coding segments on the ends of chromosomes. Objective: We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to determine the association between self-reported, perceived psychological stress (PS) and telomere length (TL). Data sources: We searched 3 databases (PubMed, PsycInfo, and Scopus), completed manual searches of published and unpublished studies, and contacted all study authors to obtain potentially relevant data. Study selection: Two independent reviewers assessed studies for original research measuring (but not necessarily reporting the correlation between) PS and TL in human subjects. 23 studies met inclusion criteria; 22 (totaling 8948 subjects) could be meta-analyzed. Data extraction and synthesis: We assessed study quality using modified MINORS criteria. Since not all included studies reported PS-TL correlations, we obtained them via direct calculation from author-provided data (7 studies), contact with authors (14 studies), or extraction from the published article (1 study). Main outcomes and measures: We conducted random-effects meta-analysis on our primary outcome, the age-adjusted PS-TL correlation. We investigated potential confounders and moderators (sex, life stress exposure, and PS measure validation) via post hoc subset analyses and meta-regression. Results: Increased PS was associated with a very small decrease in TL (n=8724 total; r=-0.06; 95% CI: -0.10, -0.008; p=0.01; α=0.025), adjusting for age. This relationship was similar between sexes and within studies using validated measures of PS, and marginally (nonsignificantly) stronger among samples recruited for stress exposure (r=-0.13; vs. general samples: b=-0.11; 95% CI: -0.27, 0.01; p=0.05; α=0.013). Publication bias may exist; correcting for its effects attenuated the relationship. Conclusions and relevance: Our analysis finds a very small, statistically significant relationship between increased PS (as measured over the past month) and decreased TL that may reflect publication bias, although fully parsing the effects of publication bias from other sample-size correlates is challenging, as discussed. The association may be stronger with known major stressors and is similar in magnitude to that noted between obesity and TL. All included studies used single measures of short-term stress; the literature suggests long-term chronic stress may have a larger cumulative effect. Future research should assess for potential confounders and use longitudinal, multidimensional models of stress.
Article
Despite growing attention to the unintended intergenerational consequences of incarceration, little is known about whether and how paternal incarceration is related to children’s food insecurity. In this article, I use data from the Fragile Families and Child Well-Being Study to examine the relationship between paternal incarceration and children’s food insecurity. Propensity score matching models indicate that recent paternal incarceration, defined as incarceration in the past 2 years, is associated with an increased likelihood of food insecurity among 5-year-old children, but only among children living with their biological fathers prior to his incarceration. These associations cannot be explained by the mechanisms considered, including post-incarceration changes in economic well-being, parental relationships, maternal parenting, and maternal health. Taken together, the findings highlight the salience of the father’s residential status in linking paternal incarceration to children’s food insecurity, and they have a number of implications for policy and practice.
Article
A growing literature documents the myriad penalties for children of incarcerated fathers, but relatively little is known about how paternal incarceration contributes to educational outcomes in early and middle childhood. In this article, we use data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study to provide the first estimates of the relationship between paternal incarceration and children’s grade retention in elementary school. Propensity score matching models indicate that children of incarcerated fathers are more likely to experience early grade retention than their counterparts. This relationship is not driven by test scores or behavior problems; preliminary evidence suggests this relationship may be driven by teachers’ perceptions of children’s academic proficiency. These findings suggest that elementary school teachers may play an important role in the lives of children experiencing paternal incarceration and, more generally, highlight yet another way in which the large-scale incarceration of men limits their children’s potential.
Article
In response to dramatic increases in imprisonment, a burgeoning literature considers the consequences of incarceration for family life, almost always documenting negative outcomes. But effects of incarceration may be more complicated and nuanced. In this article, we consider the countervailing consequences of paternal incarceration for a host of family relationships, including fathers' parenting, mothers' parenting, and the relationship between parents. Using longitudinal data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, we find recent paternal incarceration sharply diminishes parenting behaviors among residential but not nonresidential fathers. Virtually all of the association between incarceration and parenting among residential fathers is explained by changes in fathers' relationships with their children's mothers. Consequences for mothers' parenting, however, are weak and inconsistent. Furthermore, our findings show recent paternal incarceration sharply increases the probability a mother repartners, potentially offsetting some losses from the biological father's lesser involvement while simultaneously leading to greater family complexity. Taken together, the collateral consequences of paternal incarceration for family life are complex and countervailing.
Article
A growing body of research demonstrates that individuals diagnosed with major depressive disorder (MDD) are characterized by shortened telomere length, which has been posited to underlie the association between depression and increased instances of medical illness. The temporal nature of the relation between MDD and shortened telomere length, however, is not clear. Importantly, both MDD and telomere length have been associated independently with high levels of stress, implicating dysregulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and anomalous levels of cortisol secretion in this relation. Despite these associations, no study has assessed telomere length or its relation with HPA-axis activity in individuals at risk for depression, before the onset of disorder. In the present study, we assessed cortisol levels in response to a laboratory stressor and telomere length in 97 healthy young daughters of mothers either with recurrent episodes of depression (i.e., daughters at familial risk for depression) or with no history of psychopathology. We found that daughters of depressed mothers had shorter telomeres than did daughters of never-depressed mothers and, further, that shorter telomeres were associated with greater cortisol reactivity to stress. This study is the first to demonstrate that children at familial risk of developing MDD are characterized by accelerated biological aging, operationalized as shortened telomere length, before they had experienced an onset of depression; this may predispose them to develop not only MDD but also other age-related medical illnesses. It is critical, therefore, that we attempt to identify and distinguish genetic and environmental mechanisms that contribute to telomere shortening.Molecular Psychiatry advance online publication, 30 September 2014; doi:10.1038/mp.2014.119.
Article
Approaches to handling missing data have improved dramatically in recent years and researchers can now choose from a variety of sophisticated analysis options. The methodological literature favors maximum likelihood and multiple imputation because these approaches offer substantial improvements over older approaches, including a strong theoretical foundation, less restrictive assumptions, and the potential for bias reduction and greater power. These benefits are especially important for developmental research where attrition is a pervasive problem. This article provides a brief introduction to modern methods for handling missing data and their application to developmental research.
Article
Disadvantaged social environments are associated with adverse health outcomes. This has been attributed, in part, to chronic stress. Telomere length (TL) has been used as a biomarker of chronic stress: TL is shorter in adults in a variety of contexts, including disadvantaged social standing and depression. We use data from 40, 9-y-old boys participating in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study to extend this observation to African American children. We report that exposure to disadvantaged environments is associated with reduced TL by age 9 y. We document significant associations between low income, low maternal education, unstable family structure, and harsh parenting and TL. These effects were moderated by genetic variants in serotonergic and dopaminergic pathways. Consistent with the differential susceptibility hypothesis, subjects with the highest genetic sensitivity scores had the shortest TL when exposed to disadvantaged social environments and the longest TL when exposed to advantaged environments.
Article
A burgeoning literature considers the consequences of mass imprisonment for the well-being of adult men and—albeit to a lesser degree—their children. Yet virtually no quantitative research considers the consequences of mass imprisonment for the well-being of the women who are the link between (former) prisoners and their children. This article extends research on the collateral consequences of mass imprisonment by considering the association between paternal incarceration and maternal mental health using data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study. Results show that recent paternal incarceration increases a mother’s risk of a major depressive episode and her level of life dissatisfaction, net of a variety of influences including prior mental health. The empirical design lends confidence to a causal interpretation: effects of recent incarceration persist even when the sample is limited to mothers attached to previously incarcerated men, which provides a rigorous counterfactual. In addition, the empirical design is comprehensive; after isolating key mechanisms anticipated in the literature, we reduce the relationship between recent paternal incarceration and maternal mental health to statistical insignificance. These results imply that the penal system may have important effects on poor women’s well-being beyond increasing their economic insecurity, compromising their marriage markets, or magnifying their risk of divorce.
Article
Geographic separation from family is one consequence of imprisonment. Depending on the state, prisons are often located in remote, rural areas that are far from the urban cores many prisoners come from. Although scholars frequently cite the distance of prison facilities from prisoners’ families’ residences, scant research has addressed whether this is in fact an impediment to visiting or how families who do visit manage this process. It is an exhausting, resource intensive process for a family member to make one visit at a prison. Understanding how families decide how much of their resources to devote to maintaining their relationship with the prisoner is important. Using data collected through ethnographic observation and interviews, this article explores family management of prison visiting as one of the collateral consequences of incarceration.
Article
As incarceration rates in the United States have reached the highest point in history, the concept of mass imprisonment describes both high levels of imprisonment and its potential far reaching consequences. With disproportionately high rates of incarceration for African Americans compared to other racial and ethnic groups, mass imprisonment's impact on the Black community is a topic of critical importance. Black women in particular face unique challenges in the era of mass imprisonment as both incarcerated women and women connected to imprisoned men and women. This article uses the concept of intersectionality to examine extant research about Black women and mass imprisonment.
Article
The long-term sequelae of adverse early-life experiences have long been a focus in psychiatry, with a historic neurobiological emphasis on physiological systems that are demonstrably stress-responsive, such as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and neuroimmune function. However, there has been increasing recognition in the general medical literature that such sequelae might encompass more pervasive alterations in health status and physiology. Recent findings in telomere biology have suggested a new avenue for exploring the adverse health effects of childhood maltreatment. Telomere length in proliferative tissues declines with cell replication and the effect can be accelerated by such factors as inflammation, oxidative stress, radiation, and toxins. Reduced telomere length, as a proxy for cellular aging, has been associated with numerous chronic somatic diseases that are generally considered to be diseases of aging, such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. More recently, shorter telomeres have been demonstrated in several psychiatric conditions, particularly depression. Sustained psychosocial stress of a variety of types in adulthood appears to be associated with shorter telomeres. Now, emerging work suggests a robust, and perhaps dose-dependent, relationship with early-life stress. These findings present new opportunities to reconceptualize the complex relationships between experience, physical and psychiatric disease, and aging.
Article
Data are reported on a series of short-form (SF) screening scales of DSM-III-R psychiatric disorders developed from the World Health Organization's Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI). A multi-step procedure was used to generate CIDI-SF screening scales for each of eight DSM disorders from the US National Comorbidity Survey (NCS). This procedure began with the subsample of respondents who endorsed the CIDI diagnostic stem question for a given disorder and then used a series of stepwise regression analyses to select a subset of screening questions to maximize reproduction of the full CIDI diagnosis. A small number of screening questions, between three and eight for each disorder, was found to account for the significant associations between symptom ratings and CIDI diagnoses. Summary scales made up of these symptom questions correctly classify between 77% and 100% of CIDI cases and between 94% and 99% of CIDI non-cases in the NCS depending on the diagnosis. Overall classification accuracy ranged from a low of 93% for major depressive episode to a high of over 99% for generalized anxiety disorder. Pilot testing in a nationally representative telephone survey found that the full set of CIDI-SF scales can be administered in an average of seven minutes compared to over an hour for the full CIDI. The results are quite encouraging in suggesting that diagnostic classifications made in the full CIDI can be reproduced with excellent accuracy with the CIDI-SF scales. Independent verification of this reproduction accuracy, however, is needed in a data set other than the one in which the CIDI-SF was developed. Copyright © 1998 Whurr Publishers Ltd.
Article
This paper provides important background information on the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, and is the first and only paper to provide detailed information on the research methodology and sampling strategies employed. The bulk of the paper is devoted to a detailed description of the three-stage sampling process that was used to obtain a nationally representative sample of non-marital births in large US cities. First, it was necessary to sample cities that, collectively, were nationally representative and had maximum variation in policy regimes. Next, it was necessary to sample hospitals so as to be representative of non-marital births in each city. Finally, we sampled births in order to be representative of those at each hospital. The paper concludes with some general information about the study and a simple description of the baseline non-marital sample from the first seven cities.
Article
Advances in fields of inquiry as diverse as neuroscience, molecular biology, genomics, developmental psychology, epidemiology, sociology, and economics are catalyzing an important paradigm shift in our understanding of health and disease across the lifespan. This converging, multidisciplinary science of human development has profound implications for our ability to enhance the life prospects of children and to strengthen the social and economic fabric of society. Drawing on these multiple streams of investigation, this report presents an ecobiodevelopmental framework that illustrates how early experiences and environmental influences can leave a lasting signature on the genetic predispositions that affect emerging brain architecture and long-term health. The report also examines extensive evidence of the disruptive impacts of toxic stress, offering intriguing insights into causal mechanisms that link early adversity to later impairments in learning, behavior, and both physical and mental well-being. The implications of this framework for the practice of medicine, in general, and pediatrics, specifically, are potentially transformational. They suggest that many adult diseases should be viewed as developmental disorders that begin early in life and that persistent health disparities associated with poverty, discrimination, or maltreatment could be reduced by the alleviation of toxic stress in childhood. An ecobiodevelopmental framework also underscores the need for new thinking about the focus and boundaries of pediatric practice. It calls for pediatricians to serve as both front-line guardians of healthy child development and strategically positioned, community leaders to inform new science-based strategies that build strong foundations for educational achievement, economic productivity, responsible citizenship, and lifelong health.
Article
Although much research has focused on how imprisonment transforms the life course of disadvantaged black men, researchers have paid little attention to how parental imprisonment alters the social experience of childhood. This article estimates the risk of parental imprisonment by age 14 for black and white children born in 1978 and 1990. This article also estimates the risk of parental imprisonment for children whose parents did not finish high school, finished high school only, or attended college. Results show the following: (1) 1 in 40 white children born in 1978 and 1 in 25 white children born in 1990 had a parent imprisoned; (2) 1 in 7 black children born in 1978 and 1 in 4 black children born in 1990 had a parent imprisoned; (3) inequality in the risk of parental imprisonment between white children of college-educated parents and all other children is growing; and (4) by age 14, 50.5% of black children born in 1990 to high school dropouts had a father imprisoned. These estimates, robustness checks, and extensions to longitudinal data indicate that parental imprisonment has emerged as a novel-and distinctively American-childhood risk that is concentrated among black children and children of low-education parents.
Article
The purpose of this study was to determine whether there is an association between self-reported and biologic measures of stress in low-income, reproductive-age women. Between 1999 and 2005, randomly selected reproductive-age women from the 1998 welfare rolls in Chicago, IL, were interviewed yearly to assess psychosocial, socioeconomic, and health characteristics. The association of 2 stress-sensitive biomarkers (Epstein-Barr virus antibody titer (EBV) and C-reactive protein level) with self-reported stress was assessed. Of the 206 women who were interviewed, 205 women (99%) agreed to provide a blood sample. There was no difference in mean EBV or C-reactive protein levels based on age, race, parity, employment, marital status, or education. Women who reported a higher degree of perceived stress or reported experiences of discrimination had significantly higher levels of EBV (P < .05). Measures of self-reported psychosocial stress are associated with elevated levels EBV antibody in a low-income population of reproductive-age women.
Article
Incarceration diminishes the life-chances of adults, but little is known about how parental incarceration affects children. Effects on early childhood aggressive behaviors are especially significant because of connections between early childhood aggression and future criminality. Using data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a longitudinal birth cohort study of children born in urban centers at the close of the 20th century, this paper considers the effects of paternal incarceration on children’s aggressive behaviors at age 5. Results show strong effects of paternal incarceration on aggressive behaviors for boys but not girls. Results also show that effects are concentrated among boys living with a father at the time of his incarceration. The use of various modeling strategies and alternate dependent and independent variables demonstrates the robustness of the finding – and shows that effects are largest on physically aggressive acts, precisely the acts most strongly connected with future criminal activity. By increasing boy’s aggression, paternal incarceration may promote the intergenerational transmission of crime and incarceration. In so doing, high levels of paternal incarceration could not only compromise public safety but also provide the groundwork for a permanently disadvantaged class for whom contact with the criminal justice system is normal.
Article
The relationship of health risk behavior and disease in adulthood to the breadth of exposure to childhood emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, and household dysfunction during childhood has not previously been described. A questionnaire about adverse childhood experiences was mailed to 13,494 adults who had completed a standardized medical evaluation at a large HMO; 9,508 (70.5%) responded. Seven categories of adverse childhood experiences were studied: psychological, physical, or sexual abuse; violence against mother; or living with household members who were substance abusers, mentally ill or suicidal, or ever imprisoned. The number of categories of these adverse childhood experiences was then compared to measures of adult risk behavior, health status, and disease. Logistic regression was used to adjust for effects of demographic factors on the association between the cumulative number of categories of childhood exposures (range: 0-7) and risk factors for the leading causes of death in adult life. More than half of respondents reported at least one, and one-fourth reported > or = 2 categories of childhood exposures. We found a graded relationship between the number of categories of childhood exposure and each of the adult health risk behaviors and diseases that were studied (P < .001). Persons who had experienced four or more categories of childhood exposure, compared to those who had experienced none, had 4- to 12-fold increased health risks for alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, and suicide attempt; a 2- to 4-fold increase in smoking, poor self-rated health, > or = 50 sexual intercourse partners, and sexually transmitted disease; and 1.4- to 1.6-fold increase in physical inactivity and severe obesity. The number of categories of adverse childhood exposures showed a graded relationship to the presence of adult diseases including ischemic heart disease, cancer, chronic lung disease, skeletal fractures, and liver disease. The seven categories of adverse childhood experiences were strongly interrelated and persons with multiple categories of childhood exposure were likely to have multiple health risk factors later in life. We found a strong graded relationship between the breadth of exposure to abuse or household dysfunction during childhood and multiple risk factors for several of the leading causes of death in adults.
Article
A large body of literature documents the adverse effects of maternal depression on the functioning and development of offspring. Although investigators have identified factors associated with risk for abnormal development and psychopathology in the children, little attention has been paid to the mechanisms explaining the transmission of risk from the mothers to the children. Moreover, no existing model both guides understanding of the various processes' interrelatedness and considers the role of development in explicating the manifestation of risk in the children. This article proposes a developmentally sensitive, integrative model for understanding children's risk in relation to maternal depression. Four mechanisms through which risk might be transmitted are evaluated: (a) heritability of depression; (b) innate dysfunctional neuroregulatory mechanisms; (c) exposure to negative maternal cognitions, behaviors, and affect; and (d) the stressful context of the children's lives. Three factors that might moderate this risk are considered: (a) the father's health and involvement with the child, (b) the course and timing of the mother's depression, and (c) characteristics of the child. Relevant issues are discussed, and promising directions for future research are suggested.
Article
The chief goal of the present study is to examine the validity of a dimensional approach to the classification of depressive disorders. Each of the the major diagnostic criteria for depression including symptoms, duration and frequency is examined with respect to a series of clinical validators. The sample is comprised of a cohort of 591 individuals from the total population of 18-19 year olds in Zurich, Switzerland who were followed for a period of 15 years. The results revealed that: (1) depression may be better represented on a continuum than as a discrete category; (2) there is a direct relationship between the number of symptoms of depression, the frequency and the duration of depressive episodes and indicators of validity of depression; and (3) in addition to the number of symptoms of depression, a combination of frequency and duration criteria enhance the validity of the classification of depression.
Understanding inequality and the justice system response: Charting a new way forward. William T. Grant Foundation
  • J H Laub
Laub JH. Understanding inequality and the justice system response: Charting a new way forward. William T. Grant Foundation; 2014.
The growth of incarceration in the United States: Exploring causes and consequences. The National Academies Press
  • National Research
  • Council