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Chapter 2

Review of Related Literature

` This chapter aims to provide an overview of the existing literature regarding

parental incarceration and its significance for children. The chapter will discuss the

various ways children are impacted by the incarceration of a parent, such as behavioral,

emotional or attachment related effects.

Behavior is the range of actions and mannerisms made by individuals,

organisms, systems or artificial entities in conjunction with themselves or their

environment, which includes the other systems or organisms around as well as the

physical environment.

Parental Incarceration affects a child behavior, academic performance, and

mental health.

Having a parent in prison can have an impact on a child’s mental health, social

behavior, and educational prospects. The emotional trauma that may occur and the

practical difficulties of a disrupted family can be compounded by the social stigma that

children may face as a result of having a parent in prison or jail. Children who have n

incarcerated parent may experience financial hardship that results from the loss of that

parent’s income. Further, some incarcerated parents face termination of parent’s right

because their children have been in the foster care system beyond the time allowed by

law. These children require support from local, state, ad federal system to serve their

According to Christopher Wildeman in “Parental incarceration and children’s

physically aggressive behaviors: Evidence from the fragile families and child wellbeing

study,.2010” imprisonment and the causes of children’s behavioral problems by

considering the effects of paternal incarceration on children’s physical aggression at

age 5 using data from the fragile Families and Child Wellbeing study. Result suggest

that paternal incarceration is associated with increased physical aggression for boys,

and that affects are concentrated among boys whose fathers were neither incarcerated

for a violent offense nor abusive to the boy’s mother. Result also suggests that paternal

incarceration may decrease girl’s physical aggression, although this is not strong or

healthy. Taken together, results imply that mass imprisonment may contribute to a

system of stratification in which crime and incarceration are passed down from fathers

to sons (but not daughters).

According to Lauren Aaron, Danielle H Dallaire in “Parental incarceration and

multiple risk experience: Effects on family dynamics and children’s delinquency,.2010”

children of incarcerated parents are exposed to factors that place them at risk for

delinquency. Few studies have examined the effects of having incarcerated parents

after controlling for other experiences such as contextual risk factors and family

processes. Past studies have also not examined effects of recent, but not current,

parental incarceration on children. The present study examines an archival dataset, in

which children aged 10- 14 years and their parent’s/ guardian reported children risk

experiences (e.g., exposure to poverty, parental substance use), family processes (e.g.,

level of victimization, family conflict), and children’ delinquent behaviors at two time

points. Parents also reported their recent and past incarceration history. Hierarchical
linear regression analyses show that a history of parental incarceration predicted family

victimization, delinquent behaviors of the children’s other siblings, and delinquent

behaviors of the child participants, over and above children’s demographic

characteristics and other risk experiences recent parental incarceration predicted family

conflict, family victimization, and parent reports of children’s delinquency after also

controlling for previous parental incarceration. The role of family processes in research

and intervention directions involving children of incarcerated parents is discussed.

According to Elizabeth Johnson and Beth Easterling in “Understanding unique

effects of parental incarceration on children: Challenges, progress, and

recommendations,.2012”, growth in US incarceration rates during the 1980s and 1990s

prompted a body of research focused on understanding the diverse effects of

incarceration of individuals, families, and communities. An area of particular interest has

been how the incarceration of a parent may affect child wellbeing. Despite what appears

to be converging evidence that parental incarceration poses a significant threat to child

development, this area of inquiry has yet to overcome important methodological and

conceptual challenges related to selection bias.

According to Joseph Murray, David P Farrington and Ivana Sekol in the

“Children’s antisocial behavior, mental health, drug use, and education performance

after parental incarceration: a systematic review and mental analysis.” Unprecedented

numbers of children experience parental incarceration worldwide. Families and children

of prisoners can experience multiple difficulties after parental incarceration, including

traumatic separation, loneliness, stigma, and confused explanations to children,

unstable childcare arrangements, strained parenting, reduced income, and home,

school, and neighborhood moves. Children of incarcerated parents often have multiple,

stressful life events before parental incarceration. Theoretically, children with

incarcerated parents may be at risk for a range of adverse behavioral outcomes. A

systematic review was conducted to synthesize empirical evidence on association

between parental incarcerations and children’s later antisocial behavior, mental health

problems, drug use, and educational performance. Result from 40 studies (including

7,374 children with incarcerated parents and 37,325 comparison children in 50

samples) were pooled in mental- analysis. The most rigorous studies showed that

parental incarceration is associated with higher risk for children’s antisocial behavior,

but not for the mental health problems, drug use, or poor educational performance.

Rigorous test of a casual effects of parental incarceration are needed, using

randomized designs and prospective longitudinal studies. Criminals justice reforms and

national support system might be needed to prevent harmful consequences of parental

incarceration for children.

According to Alysse Eihage in “the complicated problems of children with

incarcerated parents., 2016” Incarceration breaks up families, the building blocks of our

communities and nation (AECF). “It creates an unstable environment for kids that can

have lasting effects on their development and well-being.” The effects of parental

incarceration are so strong, the report points out, that they equal abuse, domestic

violence, or divorce in terms of the impact on children. According to child trends, a vast

body of earlier research has found that children with incarcerated parents are more apt

to suffer a variety of emotional and physical health problems in childhood as adulthood.

Even after controlling for demographic variables, such as race and income, as well as
some adverse childhood experiences, young children with an incarcerated parent still

experience more emotional problems and lower school engagement than their peers

and older children experience more problems in school and receive less parental

monitoring. The findings led the researchers to conclude that “even among children who

face multiple difficult circumstances, having a parent imprisoned conveys added risk.”

In light of the myriad of harmful outcomes for children, the AECF report offers a number

of recommendations aimed at building more community support for the children of

imprisoned parents and their families during and after parental incarceration. For

instances, it encourages judges to consider proximity to families when making prison

placement decisions, so that children have better chance of being able to visit their

incarcerated parent. It also urges community-based organizations to offer mentoring

programs, counseling, and support groups for the children, teens, and families of

imprisoned parents.

According to Sam Houston State University in “incarcerated mothers impact

children’s future criminal involvement,. 2015” children of incarcerated mothers are twice

as likely to be arrested, convicted and incarcerated as adults, according to a study.

“impact of maternal incarceration on the criminal justice involvement of adult offspring: a

research note,” by Lisa Muftic, Leana Bouffard, and Gaylene S. Armstrong of the

department of Criminal ustice and criminology found a significant link between

incarcerated mothers and children who are imprisoned as adults, even after considering

common correlates of criminal behavior. The findings are based on the national

longitudinal survey of adolescent to adult health (add health), a 20- years study that

follows a nationally representative sample of youth who were in 7 th to 12th grades in

1994-95. The survey, conducted in four waves, includes data on social, economic,

psychological, and physical well-being, as well as information on the family,

neighborhood, community, school, friendships, peer groups and romantic relationships,

to see how behavior and environment are linked to health and achievement outcomes.

The current findings serve to bolster the contentions regarding the unintended

consequences of maternal incarceration that include collateral damage to the children

these women are forced to leave behind during imprisonment,” said Muftic.

According to Stephanie Heinecke Thulstrup and Leena Eklund Kralsson in

“Children of Imprisoned parents and their coping strategies: a systematic review”

Children of imprisoned parents have a two times greater risk of health problems,

including difficulties in their environment, academic and behavioral problems as well as

social stigma. Focusing on children who have parents in prison has been a priority for

research. A large study that was conducted in Denmark on children and their parents in

prison found that these children were at risk of social exclusion due to the stigma

related to parental imprisonment and that they was punished because they did not

participate in social activities. Compared to children of parents who had no history of

imprisonment, children who had parent in prison had more mental health problems and

psychosocial stress due to the separation from their parents, loneliness, stigmatization,

labile childcare agreements and uncertain home and school environments. Lee et al.

investigated the correlation between parental imprisonment and children’s physical and

psychological health based on data from a national longitudinal study. The result

showed that there was a significant correlation between parental imprisonment and

health difficulties, such as asthma, migraines, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder

and anxiety. A comparative study in four European countries found that children who

had parents in prison had an increased risk of mental health problems, especially when

children were older than eleven years. The relationship between parents and their

children is one of the most important social circumstances in children’s lives. Normally,

this relationship is built up through orderliness, family contact and stability, encouraging

children’s physical and psychological health and well-being.

According to Cunningham (2014) the purpose of imprisonment is to punish

individuals engaging in criminal activity but it also punishes the children of these

individuals. Parents are ripped away from their children with many unanswered

questions and often in a new home. The rate of incarceration amongst both males and

females is increasing, with the rate of female incarceration increasing more rapidly.

Also, nearly two-thirds of all inmates are parents. This means that more children are

being affected by parental incarceration than ever before.

Regardless of whether these children are residing with their non-incarcerated

parent, in a relative’s home, or in foster care, they are likely to experience negative

effects due to their parent’s incarceration. Children are often lied to about their parent’s

whereabouts (Cunningham, 2014). This creates mistrust and confusion for their

children. The relationship between the children and their incarcerated parent is often

difficult to maintain, due to: being unable to visit the incarcerated parent because of

distance, travel expenses, or inconvenience; being unable to speak with the parent on

the phone because of the expense of long distance or collect calls; or being placed with
a caregiver unwilling or unable to assist in maintaining contact between the child and

the parent. When obstacles are overcome and children are able to visit their

incarcerated parent the visitation may be uncomfortable due to prison regulations. I

order to improve visitation and facilitate the parent-child relationship, programs should

be implemented that create a more inviting and comfortable atmosphere for visitors.

These programs would create visitation centers that provide toys for children ultimately

encouraging engagement with parents (Cunningham, 2014).

While analyzing parental incarceration trends spanning 11 years Cunningham

(2014) found that the rate of parental incarceration had tripled. Over the period of the 11

years, fewer incarcerated parents had custody of their children before being imprisoned

due to repeated period of incarceration. Parents also reported greater risk factors

(histories of physical and sexual abuse, prior incarceration, incarceration of their own

parents, and substance abuse) prior to incarceration than reported in previous years

(Cunnningham, 2014). While it is known that contact between individuals is important

for maintaining relations, over the course of Cunninham’s (2014) study, the discovered

that rates of communication between incarcerated parents and their children had

declined. These findings suggest that the issue of parental incarceration is only

amplifying as time progresses and it is imperative that more knowledge regarding this

population and ways to address their struggles to be identified.

Effects of Parental Incarceration on Children

Makeriev and Shaver (2014) take a closer look at parental incarceration and

attachment by summarizing relevant research and interventions. Research has found

that parental incarceration increases the likelihood of antisocial behavior, delinquent

behavior, mental health issues and substance abuse for children. Due to the number of

children being impacted and many in the critical ages for attachment formation, it is

important to understand how to assist children of incarcerated parents.

Makeriev and Shaver (2014) present information related to the topic through a

chart that depicts the factors, which impact children’s outcomes. According to Makeriev

and Shaver (2014) children’s outcomes are impacted by intergenerational transmissions

of attachment, their incarcerated parent’s problems, the quality of their relationship with

the parent before incarceration, directly by the incarceration and the substitute care they

receive while their parents is incarcerated. Intergenerational transmissions of

attachment refer to the attachment styles and quality of relationships the family has

experienced generation to generation; those styles are carried down and impact

children. Additionally, the problems the parent may experience such as poverty, mental

illness, or poor parenting skills also impact children’s attachment. Relationships

between parents and children are strained by the actual incarceration because of

separation. This separation is a traumatic experience for the child. Lastly, the substitute

care children receive also impacts their outcomes (Mekeriev and Shaver, 2014).

Therefore, the quality of care, closeness, and stability of substitute care is important

(Makereiv and Shaver, 2014).

The outcomes of children with incarcerated parents are impacted by many

factors, but Makeriev and Shaver (2014) propose that attachment base interventions

can help buffer against negative impacts. Specifically, parenting classes within the prion

system can be helpful to parents ( Makeriev and Shaver, 2014) helping incarcerated
parents parent with their issues, providing education about children’s attachment related

needs, and other parenting interventions can improve the quality of the relationship

between children and parents (Makeriev and Shaver, 2014). Multiple studies of

parenting interventions have found positive effects including reduce recidivism rates for

parents and fewer negative effects on children (Makeriev and Shaver, 2014).

There is a long history research on attachment theory, which is based on the

idea that relationships with familiar caregivers lead to a child’s sense of security and

productive exploration that are essential in developing cognitive and social skills

(Makeriev and Shaver, 2014). Children with a secure attachment often feel safe, valued,

and competent and are able to communicate about moods, emotions and impulses,

while children with insecure attachments are more likely to have difficulties with anxiety,

anger, depression, aggression, and mental disorganization (Makeriev and Shaver,


The relation between attachment insecurity and social, emotional, and behavioral

problems is considered to be strongest for populations that experience a lot of stress.

Insecure individuals are less competent in their coping abilities, and consequently more

likely than secure individuals to develop mental health problems in the presence of

stressors (Makeriev and Shaver, 2014). In this way, attachment insecurity may be

thought of as a risk factor for social, emotional and behavioral problems. Coupled with

other stressors like those associated with parental incarceration, an insecure

attachment could be very detrimental to a child’s development and future outcomes.

Children of incarcerated parents have increased potential for psychopathology.

Murray and Murray (2014) investigate child psychopathology and its connection to

attachment. Through a reviewer of literature, Murray and Murray (2014) agree that

parental is a predictor of future psychopathology in children. Furthermore, the degree of

separation due to incarceration is said to inhibit attachment, possibly leading to the

development of an insecure attachment between the child and caregiver. Interestingly,

maternal incarceration is found to have more risk factors for children than paternal

incarceration. Because mothers are typically the primary caregivers, children may

experience more turbulence when the mother is imprisoned (Murray and Murray, 2014).

However, Murray and Murray (2014) also note that risk factors present prior to parental

incarceration are important when considering child psychopathology, therefore

longitudinal studies are suggested for future research. In addition cross-national studies

should be developed to research the effects of policies on incarcerated parents and

their children (Murray and Murray, 2014).

Interestingly, Johnson and Easterling (2014) question the impacts which previous

research has noted in regards to parental incarceration. Johnson and Easterling (2014)

propose that negative outcomes may not be caused by parental incarceration but

instead by other factors which impact the children of incarcerated parents. For example,

parental mental health, poverty, parental incarceration education level, or substance

use are named as some of the issues, which can contribute to negative outcomes for

children. Johnson and Easterling (2014) calim the factors cannot be disentangled in

research and effects found in parental incarceration research may be confounded by

multiple factors. On reviewing studies, which used single and multiple comparison
groups, Johnson and Easterling (2014) still found confounding issues. Johnson and

Easterling (2014) suggest future studies be driven by conceptual models and use

matched sampling in addition to longitudinal designs.

Johnson and Easterling (2014) bright forth potential issues that may impact

research on parental incarceration. It is vital that studies pay close attention to

confounding variables in order to provide the most accurate and reliable data as

possible. The results of data are taken into consideration when developing services for

populations. Therefore, data must be credible and accurate. Johnson and Easterling

(2014) present the effects of parental incarceration in a different context; although it

may be troubling to question much of the research that has been conducted on the

topic, the points brought forth are important and needed to be carefully analyzed. The

different perspective provided by Johnson and Easterling (2014) is useful in designing

new studies to explore parental incarceration; it raises important issues and can help

bring confounds to the attention of future research.

Wildeman, Wakefield and Turney (2012) argue against the remarks of Johnson

and Easterling (2014). According to Wildeman et al. (2012) the claims which Johnson

and Easterling (2014) present are inaccurate representations of parental incarceration

literature. Wildeman et al. (2014) presents twelve studies, which use more rigors and

elaborate on the information presented by Johnson and Easterling (2014). The inclusion

of the twelve studies shows that in fact more rigorous and revealing studies have been

conducted on the topic of parental incarceration. Wildeman et al. (2012) argue that if

these studies had been included in Johnson and Easterling (2014), the conclusions

(lack of rigor, lack of impact due to incarceration) made would be discounted.

The commentary provided Wildeman et al. (2012) is very useful by clarify some

of the conclusions presented by Johnson and Easterling (2014). The commentary

demands more literature to be considered. While taking a much larger base of studies

into consideration, the claims previously made can be more closely analyzed. Although

Johnson and Easterling (2014) provides important suggestions for future research

(basis on conceptual models) and bring important methodological issues to light, it is

important not to discount the impact of parental incarceration on children.

Dalliaire (2013a) reviews a literature regarding incarcerated mothers and their

children. As mothers are typically the primary caregivers, it is important to understand

the effects of maternal incarceration on children at different development stages

(2013a). because young children are developing their attachment styles, it is especially

detrimental to be separated from their mothers. Infants and young children separated

from their mothers risk developing disorganized attachment styles (Dalliaire, 2013a).

children with disorganized attachment are at more risk developmental and emotional

issues (Dalliaire, 2013a).

For school-aged children, the incarceration of their mothers complicates their

success in class. Children can be moved from school, experience shame, and

emotional issues related to their mothers incarceration (Dalliaire, 2013a). Lastly,

adolescents also suffer from the effects of parental incarceration. Teens with

incarcerated mother are more likely to engage in delinquent behavior and dropout of

high school (Dalliaire, 2013a). Dalliaire (2013a) suggests additional research be

conducted with a developmental basis, to further understand the implications parental

incarceration has for children.

According to Susan D Philips, and Trevor Gates in “A conceptual framework for

understanding the stigmatization of children on incarcerated parents” stigmatization is

often listed as one of the adverse consequences of parental incarceration; yet, there is

very little research on this phenomenon. Researchers address this knowledge deficit by

providing a conceptual model of stigmatization and describing how it may apply to

children with parents in children with parents in jail or prison. This model helps to

explain why families conceal the fact that a child’s parent is incarcerated; the potentially

protective function of social withdrawal; possible links between stigmatization and

childhood emotional and behavioral problems; how fear of stigmatization may impede

help seeking; and the possibility for research and advocacy to contribute to the

stigmatization of children who experience parental incarceration. It also helps to define

specific aspects of stigmatization requiring further study.

According to Ann & Robert H. Lurie in “ Lifetime sentence: Incarcerated parents

impact youth behavior “ a study publish in pediatrics found that young adults who had a

parent incarcerated during their childhood are more likely to skip needed healthcare,

smoke cigarettes, engage in risky sexual behaviors, and abuse alcohol, prescription and

illicit drugs. “The United States has the highest incarceration rates in the world. With the

climbing number of parents, especially mothers, who are incarcerated, our study calls

attention to invisible victims-their children,” says lead author Nia Heard-Garris, MD,

MSc, a pediatrician at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago ang

Instructor of Pediatrics at Northwestern University Fienberg School of medicine. “We

shed light on how much the incarceration of a mother versus father influences the

health behaviors of children into adulthood.”

Dr. Heard-Garris and colleagues analyzed national survey data over 13, 000

young adults (ages 24-32), finding that 10 percent have had a parent incarcerated

during their childhood. Participants were on average 10 years old the first time their

parent was incarcerated. Additionally, young Black adults had a much higher

prevalence of parental incarceration. While Black participants represented less than 15

percent of the young adults surveyed, they accounted for roughly 34 percent of those

with history of an incarcerated mother and 23 percent with history of an incarcerated

father. “the systematic difference in the arrest, prosecution, conviction, and sentencing

of people of color impact the future health of their children,” says Dr. Heard-Garris.

Previous research shows that individuals with a history of parental incarceration

have higher rates of asthma, learning delays, depression, anxiety and post-traumatic

stress disorder. “It’s possible that because these young adults are more likely to forgot

medical care and engage in unhealthy behaviors, they are at higher risk to develop

these physical and mental health conditions.” says Dr. Heard-Garris. “By pinpointing the

specific health harming behaviors that these young adults demonstrate, this may be a

stepping stone towards seeking more precise ways to mitigate the health risk these

young adults face. Hopefully, future studies will teach us how to prevent, screen for, and

target negative health behaviors prior to adulthood.” The authors also stress that more

research is needed to identify specific barriers to healthcare, targeting this population’s

underutilization of care.

According to Turney K in the stress proliferation across generations? examining

the relationship between parental incarceration and childhood health (2014). 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.

According to Roettger Me, and Boardman JD in the “Parental incarceration and

gender-based risks for increased body mass index: evidence from the National

Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health in the United States (2012).” Although recent

studies suggest that 13 percent of young adults, including at least one-fourth of African

Americans, experience parental incarceration, little research has examined links

between parental incarceration and physical health. Using data from the National

Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (1994-2008) and gender-based theories of

stress, the authors examined whether parental incarceration is associated with

increased body mass index among women but not men. Panel analysis spanning

adolescence and adulthood, controlling for stressful life events, internalizing behaviors,

and a range of individual, familial, and neighborhood characteristics, reveals that body

mass index for women who have experienced parental incarceration is 0.49 units (P <

0.004) higher than that for women whose parents have never been incarcerated. This

association is not evident among men. In supplemental analysis examining if gender

differences in incarceration stress response (externalizing vs. internalizing) explain

these findings, the authors found that obesity status moderates the relation between

depression and parental incarceration. Results suggest a stress internalization process

that, for the first time, links parental incarceration with obesity among women.

According to Murray L, and Murray J in the “Parental incarceration, attachment

and child psychopathology (2010). Theory and evidence relating parental incarceration,

attachment, and psychopathology are reviewed. Parental incarceration is a strong risk

factor for long-lasting psychopathology, including antisocial and internalizing outcomes.

Parental incarceration might threaten children's attachment security because of parent-

child separation, confusing communication about parental absence, restricted contact

with incarcerated parents, and unstable caregiving arrangements. Parental

incarceration can also cause economic strain, reduced supervision, stigma, home and

school moves, and other negative life events for children. Thus, there are multiple

possible mechanisms whereby parental incarceration might increase risk for child

psychopathology. Maternal incarceration tends to cause more disruption for children

than paternal incarceration and may lead to greater risk for insecure attachment and

psychopathology. Children's prior attachment relations and other life experiences are
likely to be of great importance for understanding children's reactions to parental

incarceration. Several hypotheses are presented about how prior insecure attachment

and social adversity might interact with parental incarceration and contribute to

psychopathology. Carefully designed longitudinal studies, randomized controlled trials,

and cross-national comparative research are required to test these hypotheses.

According to Nilsen W, Johansen S, Blaasvaer N, Hammerstorm KT, and Berg

RC in the “Effect of Interventions Targeting Incarcerated Parents and Their Children

(2015).” Children with incarcerated parents may be at higher risk than other children for

developing behavioral problems and poor mental health. This systematic review

addresses the effect of interventions for incarcerated parents and/or their children. We

included 22 studies. All the included studies were conducted in the USA. They

examined three types of interventions: Parenting interventions, prison nurseries, and

support groups for children. Only one study evaluated interventions directed at children

with incarcerated parents. The main findings of the report are that it is uncertain whether

parenting interventions and prison nurseries have an effect on parenting attitudes and

behavior. It is also uncertain whether parenting interventions, prison nurseries, and

support groups for children have an effect on children’s emotional and behavioral

problems. The uncertainty is a result of the interventions having insufficient evidence to

allow firm conclusions. However, while we cannot draw firm conclusions about effect,

this does not mean that the interventions do not have an effect. The studies

demonstrated some positive results. For example, parents who received parenting

interventions had improved knowledge about child-rearing as well as acceptance and

empathy for their children. This systematic review shows that there is a need for more
research on the effect of interventions for incarcerated parents and their children.

Particularly, there is a lack of effect studies on interventions directed at children

with incarcerated parents. Furthermore, there is a lack of effect studies

on incarcerated parents and their children conducted in a Nordic setting.

The Risk for Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Problems

Mental health problems, antisocial and other negative outcomes for children of

incarcerated parents are not uncommon. Children may suffer a range of problem during

their parent’s incarceration. These include depression, hyperactivity, aggressiveness,

regression, sleep problems, eating problems, truancy and poor grades and behavior in

school (Murray, 2016). Murray and colleagues (2013) reviewed 16 longitudinal studies

of parental imprisonment and concluded that parental imprisonment was a strong risk

factor for antisocial behavior and poor mental health. A meta-analysis of these studies

showed that prisoners’ children, ages 0-18, had twice the risk for antisocial outcomes

and mental health problems compared with their peers (Murray, 2016). Antisocial

behavior included externalizing behaviors like persistent lying, arrests, convictions, and

imprisonment of the child. Mental health problems included internalizing problems like

depression and anxiety (Murray, 2016). Beyond this meta-analysis, other studies

showed that children of inmates were more often rated below average at school in

social, psychological and academic characteristics (Murray, 2016).

While parental incarceration is associated with problem behaviors in children,

the role of incarceration in the development of these problems is unclear. A collection of

recent longitudinal studies reviewed by Murray and Murray (2014) provided mixed

findings for whether or not parental incarceration is a causal risk factor. A London study
found that 48% of boys, ages 0-18, who were separated from a parent between birth

and age ten due to parental imprisonment were convicted as an adult, compared 25%

of boys, ages 0-18, who were separated from a parent for other reasons (Murray, 2016),

a continuation of this study found that 55% of boys, ages 0-18, separated from a parent

due to parental imprisonment showed chronic internalizing problems throughout their

lives, compared with only 18% who were not separated from a parent. The final findings

of the study suggested that parental incarceration was a causal risk factor because the

effects of separation due to parental imprisonment remained after controlling for other

childhood risk factors such as low IQ, parental criminality, family poverty, and poor

parenting (Murray, 2016).

Berg (2013) stated that parental incarceration refers to the circumstance where a

mother, father, or both parents are imprisoned for breaking a law. Berg (2013)

characterized parental incarceration as an isolated phenomenon, where the rights,

needs, and best interests of the children connected with the imprisoned parents are

actively damaged. Berg (2013) defined the concept of parental incarceration as a novel

and distinct childhood risk. Berg (2013) examined the association between parental

incarceration with young adult physical and mental health outcomes. Berg (2013) used

data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, to determine the

association between the dependent variables (i.e., self-reported fair/poor health and

health diagnosis) and independent variable (i.e., parental incarceration history).