What is associated with increased stress for children with incarcerated parents?

HBCD: Building Positive Interactions with Justice-Involved Families in Child Development Research > "We Are Just Kids" > What is associated with increased stress for children with incarcerated parents?

It is important to examine what processes make ACEs, like a parent’s incarceration, stressful for children

Stressors that may exist before or are exacerbated by parental incarceration:

  • Poverty & its challenges like food insecurity
  • Housing instability or homelessness
  • Shifts in caregivers
  • Exposure to violence
  • Other early adversity (racism, parental substance use or mental health problems)

Stressors associated with parental justice system involvement:

  • Witnessing parental arrest
  • Stigma, secrecy around the parent’s incarceration
  • Visiting in some corrections settings
  • Parental forced absence
  • Repeated parental contact with the justice system

Witnessing parental arrest

  • About 20-40% of children with incarcerated parents have witnessed their parent’s arrest
  • When law enforcement protections for children are not in place, witnessing the parent’s arrest can be traumatic and remembered for many years, even into adulthood
  • Watch this video to learn more about how witnessing a parent’s arrest is often traumatic and what can be done to protect children

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