How Incarceration Affects the Parent-Child Relationship and Family Dynamics

How Incarceration Affects the Parent-Child Relationship and Family Dynamics

Alicia Ferris (Marymount Manhattan College, USA)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 29
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2404-5.ch016
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Abstract

The United States incarcerates more people than any other country in the world (Pew Charitable Trust, 2008). More than one in 100 adults are incarcerated and many of these individuals are parents who have one or more children who are under the age of eighteen. Therefore, 1.7 million children are affected by parental incarceration (Glaze & Maruschak, 2008). Children who have incarcerated parents are exposed to factors that put them at risk for increased delinquency and maladjustment in childhood (Aaron & Dallaire, 2010). Parental incarceration is a heart-wrenching topic, but needs to be discussed because it can negatively impact children and families. Thus, this chapter will explore how parental incarceration affects children and families. Specifically, the various relationships of parent-child, caregiver-child, parent-caregiver, and sibling relationships will be explored. In addition, this chapter will examine the developmental impacts parental incarceration has, legal recommendations, and interventions for children and families affected by parental incarceration.
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Introduction

The United States incarcerates more people than any other country in the world. This often stems from imprisoning individuals due to mental health problems (Pew Charitable Trust, 2008, as cited by Cassidy, Poehlmann, & Shaver, 2010; Dumont, Allen, & Rich, 2014). More than one in 100 adults are incarcerated. This rate is even higher for African American men, with the rate being 3,071 per 100,000 people (Carson & Sabol, 2012; Clear, 2007, as cited by Dumont, Allen, & Rich, 2014). A majority of these individuals are parents who have one or more children who are under the age of eighteen. Thus, this accounts for 1.7 million children who are affected by parental incarceration (Glaze & Maruschak, 2008 as cited by Cassidy, Poehlmann, & Shaver, 2010).

Unfortunately, these numbers are not fully accurate, since this information is not systematically compiled among prisons, jails, child welfare agencies, schools, and other organizations. This then indicates that there are many more children and families who are affected by parental incarceration (Glaze & Maruschak, 2008 as cited by Cassidy, Poehlmann, & Shaver, 2010).

In 2013, Sesame Street introduced a new character with an incarcerated father. This illustrates how important it is to discuss the effects that incarceration has on children and families (Dumont, Allen, & Rich, 2014). It is so important to discuss the effects of parental incarceration, since children who have incarcerated parents are exposed to factors that put them at risk for increased delinquency and maladjustment in childhood (Aaron & Dallaire, 2010). Such risks include dropping out of school, being incarcerated themselves, or belonging to ethnic minority groups (Trice & Brewester, 2004; Murray & Farrington, 2005; Glaze & Maruschak, 2008, as cited by Aaron & Dallaire, 2010). In addition, children of incarcerated parents are exposed to parental drug abuse and poverty (Mumola, 2000; Phillips et al., 2002, as cited by Aaron & Dallaire, 2010). Incarcerated individuals are also much more likely to be homeless, have less access to health insurance, and are excluded from antipoverty programs. The exclusion from antipoverty programs significantly affects those who have been incarcerated on drug charges, because they are not legally permitted to use public housing facilities, which thus increases their chances of being separated from their families and can thus cause children to be separated from their parents (The Pew Charitable Trusts, 2010; Dumon, Allen, Brockman, Alexander, & Rich, 2013; Mallik-Kane & Visher, 2008, as cited by Dumont, Allen, & Rich, 2014). Lastly, parental incarceration also causes a loss of financial support for the affected children and families (Arditti, 2005, as cited by Aaron & Dallaire, 2010).

This chapter will discuss how incarceration affects the parent-child relationship, the caregiver-child relationship, the relationship between incarcerated parent and caregiver, and the relationships among siblings of incarcerated parents. In addition, the chapter will explore the developmental impact of incarcerated parents on children, legal recommendations, and interventions for incarcerated parents and their affected families.

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