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Home > > Science Meeting Summaries & Special Reports > Children of Parents in the Criminal Justice System: Children at Risk > Potential Targets for Intervention


Header - Children of Parents in the Criminal Justice System: Children at Risk

FAMILY AND CHILD FUNCTIONING—POTENTIAL TARGETS FOR INTERVENTION

Prisoners and their Families: Parenting Issues During Incarceration
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Prisoners and their Families: Parenting Issues During Incarceration
Creasie Finney Hairston, Ph.D.

Incarceration presents major changes, problems, and challenges for families and their children. This is especially the case when the incarcerated individual is a parent who had responsibility for childrearing prior to incarceration or was a central family figure. Families are also affected by incarceration even when prisoners’ preprison relationships with other family members were negative or strained. Parenting from prison is different from parenting in the community and is difficult as well. Ongoing changes in family structure, roles, and relationships are quite common as families strive to manage as a family and nurture their children under these circumstances. Although the promotion of strong family bonds is a valued social good, public policies often thwart, rather than support, the maintenance of relationships between prisoners and their children.

Risk and Resilience in Young Children of Incarcerated Mothers
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Risk and Resilience in Young Children of Incarcerated Mothers
Julie A. Poehlmann, Ph.D.

The dramatic increase in the number of young children with incarcerated mothers that has occurred in the past decades has led to an increased need for developmental research focusing on this population. The National Institute of Mental Health-funded study described here investigated family characteristics, representations of attachment relationships, intellectual outcomes, and behavior problems in 60 children between ages 2 and 7 years during their mothers’ incarceration. Multiple methods were used to collect data from children, mothers, and children’s nonmaternal caregivers, including observations of the home environment; standardized assessments; and interviews with children, mothers, and caregivers. Results indicated that most children experienced multiple risks that threatened their core developmental competencies, including prenatal substance exposures, changes in primary caregivers, and sociodemographic risks associated with poverty. Findings also revealed a high level of negative attachment representations and elevated rates of cognitive delays and behavior problems. Results highlighted (1) the importance of placing children in stable, responsive, and stimulating home environments during maternal incarceration and (2) the need for high-quality longitudinal investigations that focus on the cognitive, behavioral, and social-emotional development of young children of incarcerated parents.

Incarcerated Parents and their Elementary School-Age Children
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Incarcerated Parents and their Elementary School-Age Children
J. Mark Eddy, Ph.D.

More research is needed on the children of incarcerated parents, but a large body of literature examines the association between the antisocial behavior of parents and that of their children. In a meta-analysis of 34 longitudinal studies, Lipsey and Derzon (1998) found that for elementary school-age children, having parents with antisocial behavior problems was one of the strongest (albeit modest) predictors of violent or serious delinquency in adolescence and young adulthood. Similarly, in clinic samples, paternal antisocial diagnosis typically is the strongest predictor of child conduct disorder diagnosis (e.g., Frick et al., 1992). The literature that specifically addresses the relationship of parental incarceration per se to the adjustment of elementary school-age children will be overviewed. New descriptive data from the National Institute of Mental Health-funded Parent Child Study (PCS) on elementary school-age children of incarcerated parents also will be presented. PCS is an ongoing, longitudinal, randomized controlled trial of a State prison-based parent management training program for men and women inmates. Data are being collected from inmates, one of their elementary school-age children, and the primary caregiver of the target child.

Parental Imprisonment: Effects on Children’s Delinquency through the Life Course in England and Sweden
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Parental Imprisonment: Effects on Children’s Delinquency through the Life Course in England and Sweden
Joseph Murray, Ph.D., M.Phil.

This talk will summarize findings on the effects of parental imprisonment on children from two longitudinal studies in England and Sweden. Data were used from the Cambridge Study in Delinquent Development (England) and Project Metropolitan (Sweden). Boys in England who experienced parental imprisonment were at high risk for delinquency and mental health problems throughout the life course compared with other children, even after controlling for other childhood risk factors. Boys and girls who experienced parental imprisonment in Sweden were at high risk for criminal behavior compared with other children but not after taking into account the effects of parental criminality. This variability in the effects of parental imprisonment between England and Sweden suggests that family-friendly prison policies, increased social support to prisoners’ families, and more liberal public attitudes to crime and punishment might prevent the adverse effects of parental imprisonment on children.


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