Relationships between children and their parents are the foundation on which children learn how to form and sustain healthy relationships. Disrupting those relationships—by losing a parent to incarceration, for example—can have long-term effects on children and may lead to antisocial behavior, poor school performance, and physical and mental health problems.
Recent estimates show that 2.7 million US children have a parent who is incarcerated, and more than 5 million children—7 percent of all US children—have had a parent in prison or jail at some point. African American children and children from economically disadvantaged families are more likely to experience parental incarceration.
To mitigate the risks of parental incarceration for children, some correctional agencies offer parent-child visits in prisons or jails. There are several types of parent-child visits, but many experts believe contact visits, where the child and parent can physically interact, are the most helpful in safeguarding against risk and forging stronger bonds between parents and children.
Although some evidence suggests visiting practices can lessen the trauma associated with parental incarceration, the full effects of visiting remain understudied. Our goal was to help inform researchers and practitioners about what is known about visiting practices, describe key components of visiting practices, and offer recommendations for practice and research. (Author abstract)