Does parental incarceration affect children differently depending on the child’s age at the time of the experience?

HBCD: Building Positive Interactions with Justice-Involved Families in Child Development Research > "We Are Just Kids" > Does parental incarceration affect children differently depending on the child’s age at the time of the experience?

Although more research is needed on this topic, some studies have found such effects.

Age-graded effects are present in some population-based longitudinal studies of children with incarcerated parents:

  • When children experience parental incarceration when they are very young, they are more likely to experience developmental, health, and behavioral challenges than children who experience parental incarceration when they are older
    • This could also result from generally high rates of recidivism in the US; when children experience parental incarceration early, they may also experience it multiple times during development
  • Studies on parental incarceration that include adolescents and young adults often document more challenges than studies with infants, toddlers, or preschoolers
    • This could be a measurement issue; often outcomes of interests to criminologists or sociologists involve constructs that are not present in infants or very young children (e.g., risk taking behaviors, substance use, contact with the justice system)

  • The figure presents a developmentally-organized timeline of findings from population-based longitudinal studies focusing on children with incarcerated parents at different ages
    • The blue boxes with black lines indicate that parental incarceration was related to the outcome even when covariates were included in the model
    • The gray boxes indicate null findings for parental incarceration
    • CIP = children with incarcerated parents; FFCW = the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study; GSMS = Great Smoky Mountains Study; Add Health = National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health; NSCH = National Survey of Children’s Health; PSID = Panel Study of Income Dynamics; LIFT = Linking the Interests of Families and Teachers randomized controlled trial; PYS = the Pittsburgh Youth Study; PRAMS = Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System.

Course Syllabus

Not Enrolled
Scope of the Issue
Does the US really incarcerate more people than any other country in the world?
How has the number of people incarcerated in the US changed over time?
Key terms
How many people are arrested each year in the US?
Why are there such stark racial and economic inequities in incarceration in the US?
What role do jails play in mass incarceration?
How many people are on probation or parole?
How many women are incarcerated in the US?
Section 1 Quiz
Intersecting Vulnerabilities
What proportion of people who are incarcerated have health and mental health concerns?
What proportion of people who are incarcerated have substance use disorders?
Co-occurence of mental health and substance use disorders in people who were arrested
How are biomedical scientists re-envisioning how the justice system responds to the opioid crisis?
Pregnant women and substance use disorder
Nora’s blog: Pregnant people with substance use disorders need treatment, not criminalization
Section 2 Quiz
"We Are Just Kids"
How many parents are incarcerated in the US?
How many children have a parent incarcerated in jail or prison in the US?
Where do children live during parental incarceration?
Parental incarceration as an adverse childhood experience
What child outcomes are associated with parental incarceration?
Is parental incarceration ever helpful for children?
Does parental incarceration affect children differently depending on the child’s age at the time of the experience?
What is associated with increased stress for children with incarcerated parents?
A parent’s arrest, even if it does not lead to incarceration, can also be challenging for children
Racial Inequities in Arrests
Stressors associated with parental justice system involvement
Stressors and recidivism
Resilience processes for children are more likely when ...
From Stigma to Support
Studies on stigma and incarceration
The language that we use
Can you change your thinking?
Sesame Street in Communities
Listening to youth voices
What can HBCD teams do to support justice-involved families in research?
How policies can respond to parental incarceration
Further reading
Section 4 Quiz
Closing video