In the United States, incarceration is widespread. One in 14 children and youth under age 18 has experienced the incarceration of a residential parent at some point during their childhood. However, the risk of parental incarceration is not equally distributed; it happens more where there are already accumulated disadvantages, particularly poverty. Children and youth of color are far more likely to have an incarcerated parent than other children and youth. Institutional racism not only results in more parents of color in prison but can also erect barriers to recognizing the assets and strengths of these families.

Developing the resilience of children and adolescents with parents in prison is important, but it should not involve just encouraging them to adapt to situations of disadvantage and injustice. Instead, the children and youth should be invited to challenge these situations. Finding ways to raise families out of poverty would go far in addressing the needs of families who have a parent in prison.

Impacts on children and adolescents of having a parent in prison

Having an incarcerated parent has multiple impacts on youth, with profound implications for both child and adolescent development. Antisocial behavior, psychological difficulties, trauma, risk taking, and health problems in children are all linked to having a parent in prison. Experts are also concerned about intergenerational transmission of criminality.

Children and adolescents with an incarcerated parent are likely to already be facing disadvantage and material hardship, and the imprisonment intensifies these problems. Imprisonment of a parent, particularly a father who earns money or pays child support, can cause intense stress for a