More than 2.7 million children have an incarcerated parent, and many more have experienced a parent’s incarceration at some point. Research finds that parental incarceration negatively affects children’s physical, mental, and emotional health. One might presume that child outcomes improve when a parent returns from incarceration, but the evidence shows that reentry can be difficult for parents and their children.
Research to date provides little information about effects on children when fathers return home from prison or jail, especially whether children’s behavioral problems persist when the father returns. To help fill this gap, this brief explores children’s behaviors when a father is incarcerated and when he is released. We seek to understand whether the negative child outcomes from parental incarceration persist even after parents return home.
Using data on families living in several large cities, we also examine these differences by gender and race and ethnicity. Incarceration rates vary greatly by race, with black men almost six times more likely to be imprisoned than white men. (Author abstract)