Issues and Facts
  • New Research: 1 in 14 U.S. Children Have An Incarcerated Parent

    Posted on   11/6/2015  1:59 PM

    New research is out about children of incarcerated parents – and it’s not good news.

    There are now close to five million children in the United States with one or both parents in jail or prison, according to “Parents Behind Bars – What Happens to their Children” report by Child Trends. That’s up from 1.7 million in 2007.

    In all, one in 14 children are impacted by parental incarceration.

    Earlier research found links between parental incarceration and childhood health problems, behavior problems, and grade retention. It also determined a connection to poor mental and physical health in adulthood.

    The new Child Trends research found even deeper problems:

    --“a higher number of other major, potentially traumatic life events—stressors that are most damaging when they are cumulative;

    -- more emotional difficulties, low school engagement, and more problems in school, among children ages 6 to 11; and

    -- a greater likelihood of problems in school among older youth (12 to 17), as well as less parental monitoring.”

    What’s the solution?

    Researchers point to the kind of work our organization has been doing for more than eight years in Florida. Here’s their summary:

    “While the best long-term solution may be to reduce reliance
on imprisonment as a sanction for some categories of criminal behavior, there may also be ways to mitigate the harm of parental imprisonment for children. Research on interventions for children with incarcerated parents is limited, but work so far suggests that reducing the trauma and stigma these children experience, improving communications between the child and the incarcerated parent, and making visits with the incarcerated parent more child-friendly may alleviate some of the negative effects of this separation.”

    We’ve seen solid results by taking our children to see their incarcerated parents during our quarterly Bonding Visits. One of our findings: Of the 2,500 children served over the years, over 85% report reduced anti-social behaviors and over 90% report stronger attachment to incarcerated parents and caregivers.

    For us, these are major improvements for our kids.

    Read the Child Trends report here.

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