Youth with Incarcerated Parents: An Introduction to the Issues

By Elizabeth I. Johnson, M.S., M.S.W.
The Prevention Researcher,
Volume 13, Number 2, 2006, Pages 3-6, Item# A132-JOHNSON

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Parental incarceration is a large and growing problem in the United States that affects many children and families. Even conservative estimates of the number of parents in prison suggest that a substantial number of youth may experience parental incarceration and that professionals in a variety of social service settings are likely to encounter children and youth affected by parental incarceration.

Parental incarceration may have effects on children that are similar to other forms of separation from parents (e.g., divorce, death), but is unique in that it is highly stigmatized and many children and families affected by parental incarceration come from already disadvantaged backgrounds.

Although, as a group, children with incarcerated parents may be a particularly vulnerable population, not all youth will respond similarly to the experience of parental incarceration and a number of factors may influence how they fare during and after the parent's incarceration.

Research in this area has been relatively limited, and developing a more solid empirical base of knowledge is vital to developing and refining programs and policies for youth who experience the incarceration of a parent.

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