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Children’s contact with incarcerated parents

The United States incarcerates more people than any other country in the world, and over half of the 2.3 million inmates are parents of children under age 18. One in 28 children in the United States has a parent behind bars, and even more will have an incarcerated parent at some time during their childhood. Children with incarcerated parents are more likely to exhibit trauma symptoms than other children, and they are at an increased risk of developing problematic outcomes including behavior problems, substance abuse, academic difficulties, criminal activity, and physical and mental health conditions. Having contact with incarcerated parents through visits, phone calls, and letters has long been considered important for family well-being during and following incarceration, yet few researchers, practitioners, or policymakers have considered this issue from the child’s perspective. Recent research has shown that the link between parental incarceration and trauma symptoms can be mediated through the quality of parental-visitation experiences.


Child Development & Well-Being, Children, Family & Partnering, Incarceration, Justice System, Parenting