Parental Incarceration and Child Wellbeing in Fragile Families

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Summary of Findings. Parental incarceration is increasingly prevalent in United States cities, particularly among fathers.Fathers with incarceration histories earn less than other fathers and are less likely to be stably employed upon their release.Children whose fathers have been incarcerated liv

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Parental Incarceration and Child Wellbeing in Fragile Families

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1. Parental Incarceration and Child Wellbeing in Fragile Families Amanda Geller Irwin Garfinkel Columbia University School of Social Work

2. Summary of Findings Parental incarceration is increasingly prevalent in United States cities, particularly among fathers. Fathers with incarceration histories earn less than other fathers and are less likely to be stably employed upon their release. Children whose fathers have been incarcerated live in households experiencing significantly more material hardship and more marital and residential instability. Differences in health and development are small, but suggest further disadvantage as children grow older.

3. Presentation Agenda Motivation Data: The Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study Fathers’ Incarceration Descriptive Statistics Labor Market Outcomes Family Stability Child Wellbeing Incarceration and Other Father Absence Mothers’ Incarceration Summary and Implications

4. Motivation By the end of 2004, the United States had almost 1.5 million people incarcerated, more than half of whom are parents. As of 2002, more than 2 million children had a parent in jail or prison. Despite the prevalence of parental incarceration, we know little about its short or long term effects on children.

5. Motivation: Theoretical Model

6. Data: The Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study Panel survey of 3800 new unwed parents (1998-2000), plus 1100 married parents Representative of births in large cities Large sample of unmarried fathers has high prevalence of incarceration history Follow-up interviews at 1, 3, 5, 9 years This report presents findings through children’s third birthday

7. Fathers’ Incarceration: Descriptive Statistics

8. Father’s Incarceration: Labor Market Outcomes Fathers who have been incarcerated are less stably employed, and earn less, than their never-incarcerated counterparts.

9. Fathers’ Incarceration: Family Instability Material hardship: Did someone in family Receive free food — Get evicted Lose phone service — Not pay full utility bills Lose utility services — Not pay full rent/mortgage Not see a doctor when one was needed Public Assistance receipt Marital status Residential moves

10. Fathers’ Incarceration: Family Instability Families in which the father has been incarcerated experience significantly more instability.

11. Fathers’ Incarceration: Child Wellbeing Child Health: mother’s (5-point) rating, overweight or obese status Cognitive Development: PPVT (measures size and range of words children understand) Aggression: eg. tantrums, destroying things, hitting Anxious/Depressive behavior: eg. nervousness, fear, sadness Withdrawal: eg. Avoiding eye contact, nonresponse to affection

12. Fathers’ Incarceration: Child Wellbeing No significant differences in physical health or cognitive development, but children with incarcerated fathers score significantly worse on two of three mental health measures:

13. Fathers’ Incarceration and Other Father Absence To what extent are hardship and mental health differences uniquely related to incarceration? Comparing different types of father absence: Fathers incarcerated for portion of child’s life Fathers who were never incarcerated, but: Never lived with their partner (but had seen child) Never saw (or don’t know about) child

14. Fathers’ Incarceration and Other Father Absence

15. Fathers’ Incarceration and Other Father Absence

16. Fathers’ Incarceration: Summary Fathers with incarceration histories perform significantly worse in the labor market. Families where a father has been incarcerated experience more instability and material hardship. Children in these families display slight developmental disadvantages. Child wellbeing is likely to worsen as children age Developmental indicators more refined for older children Cumulative effects of disadvantage

17. Maternal Incarceration Mothers’ incarceration differs from fathers’: Far less prevalent (7% of sample vs. 41%) Shorter sentences (Avg. 4.9 months vs. 12.3) Concentrated before child’s birth (70% of ever-incarcerated mothers vs. 86% of fathers) Mothers with incarceration histories face significant disadvantage: Less likely to be married/cohabiting Less stably employed Earning less

18. Maternal Incarceration, Family Instability, and Child Wellbeing Children whose mothers have been incarcerated: Are less likely to live with both biological parents Live in households with more material hardship and receiving more public assistance Move more frequently Do not differ significantly on health or developmental measures

19. Summary of Findings Parents with incarceration histories perform significantly worse in the labor market. Families where a parent has been incarcerated face more material hardship and other instability. However, by age 3, developmental effects are small. Slight differences in mental health outcomes No differences in health or cognitive outcomes.

20. Implications for Policy and Practice Effects of incarceration on child wellbeing are small at age 3, but may grow. Health, cognitive, and mental health outcomes are better measured as children age Cumulative effects of disadvantage and instability Material hardship and instability suggest the need for assistance at the point of incarceration Re-evaluating family income to ensure PA resources meet new level of need Continuity of social services in the case of a move

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