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Children of Incarcerated and Criminal Parents: Adjustment, Behavior, and Prognosis

NCJ Number
Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry Law Volume: 20 Issue: 1 Dated: (1992) Pages: 33-45
S Gabel
Date Published
13 pages
The population of incarcerated individuals in the United States has risen dramatically over the past decade, but little information is available concerning the psychological reaction to or adjustment of children to the incarceration of their parents.
The limited amount of research that has been conducted indicates that children with currently incarcerated parents experience various behavioral and emotional problems. Although intervention for such problems appears justified, the exact nature and extent of these problems and their long-term significance are not known. The literature on children's reactions when a parent is incarcerated does not emphasize the apparently abusive or discordant home environment in which such children are raised. This environment may have important long-term consequences for the psychological well-being of children. The more extensive literature on father-absent families and antisocial behavior across generations suggests that criminal parents are inadequate parents in many cases and expose their children to child abuse, substance abuse, and poor management practices. This suggests that children of incarcerated parents merit therapeutic intervention, not only because of distress subsequent to the incarceration of their parents but also because of the significant long-term impact such parents may have on their children. Incarceration of a parent appears to be a strong indicator of potential family instability, parental substance abuse, and child abuse/maltreatment. 46 references