A parent’s arrest, even if it does not lead to incarceration, can also be challenging for children
Arrest of a family member and child behavior problems
For example, a study of 306 children aged 0 to 11 years who were enrolled in early childhood mental health systems of care in the northeastern U.S found that 21% of children experienced the arrest of a family member (usually a parent)
- The children who experienced the arrest of a family member were more likely to experience other potentially traumatic events
- After controlling for other traumas, parental arrest was associated with more child behavior problems
Roberts, Y. H., Snyder, F. J., Kaufman, J. S., Finley, M. K., Griffin, A., Anderson, J., … & Crusto, C. A. (2014). Children exposed to the arrest of a family member: Associations with mental health. Journal of Child and family Studies, 23, 214-224.
Arrest of a parent for drug- or alcohol-related offenses
A recent analysis used data from the ABCD study to examine parental arrests and child behavior.
- At the first wave of ABCD data collection, 12.5% of youth had a parent who had been arrested for an issue related to drugs or alcohol. Of these youth:
- 75.2% experienced the arrest of their father
- 16.2% experienced the arrest of their mother
- 11.4% experienced the arrest of both parents
- Youth who experienced parental arrest exhibited higher levels of both internalizing and externalizing behaviors, especially when their mother had been arrested, compared to their peers and controlling for a number of other risk factors (Johnson et al., 2022).
- It is unknown how many youth in the ABCD study witnessed their parent’s arrest, however, as those data were not collected
Johnson, E. I., Planalp, E. M., & Poehlmann-Tynan, J. (2022). Parental arrest and child behavior: Differential role of executive functioning among racial subgroups. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 31(7), 1933-1946.