Incarceration Effects on a Child

Topics: Mother, Prison, Family Pages: 7 (2262 words) Published: August 7, 2010

Incarceration Effects on a Child


When a parent becomes incarcerated inside a prison whether, the offenders are not the only ones affected. The impact of incarcerating a guardian affects the family on the outside. The children and the remaining guardian, if any, face severe consequences. Studies have shown that children whose parent(s) is incarcerated leads to many psychological, emotional and social disturbances. Imprisonment, incarceration for any length of time, is a life-interrupting event that damages society. Prison rates are raising therefore more and more families being subjected to the effects on incarceration. More and more correctional institutions are accepting family pleas for more family visitation programs.

Incarceration Effects on a Child

This world today has too many children growing up without mothers and fathers. Many of these parents are not deceased which makes one question where are these caregivers? These guardians are in a place, a place where no one individual wishes to be, called prison. The number of prison inmates is rising and with that comes a higher number of children to be raised without one parent for a certain amount of time. More than five million people inside the United States of America are under the supervision of the criminal justice system. Many of these individuals are in a state or federal prison. According to the research of Eddy and Reid (2002), “Of the 1,366,721 inmates held in state or Federal prison in 1999, over half (i.c 721,500) were parents. These parents had an estimated 1,498,800 children under the age of 18 years (Eddy and Reid, 2002 p.1). This number has risen dramatically since 1990; in 1990 the amount of children affected by the loss of a parent due to incarceration was nearing 500,000 children (Eddy and Reid, 2002 p.1). These children who were already subjected to crime by their parents are now five times more likely than the average child to end up in a prison themselves (PBS 2009).

Life is changed the minute the parental being commits the crime. A lot of incarcerated parents are of single parents, trying to survive and making money through crime to meet financial needs. With that lone parental guardian gone these children are now misplaced. Countless numbers of children now are bound to live with another relative; many are sadly entered into the foster care programs. The domicile is ruined for this child. There will no longer be that sense of familiarity, life for the child will not be as customary as it once was. The offspring of the incarcerated parent are often ignored and are left with many scary emotions that they keep to themselves. Many young children to do understand the concept of prison, they are too young to understand what a crime is, and what their parent has done. At a very young age children of incarcerated parents begin to harbor negative beliefs about the criminal justice system. They do not understand why mommy or daddy went away and they start to blame the system for ripping their family apart.

Johnston (1995) had studied the effects of incarceration on children of different ages. The following is from his concluded research: “As children grow older, the impacts of separation by incarceration appear to become more serious. For children between two and six, ability to develop autonomy and initiative may be damaged by the trauma of the parents' criminal activity and/or arrest, and parent-child separation due to incarceration. The long-term impacts of parental incarceration may be worst at this stage, because children can understand and remember traumatic events, but lack the ability to process them without help. In middle childhood (7-10 years), parental arrest and incarceration may have major impacts on social adjustment: many children in this age group develop aggressive behaviors and difficulty getting along with others, particularly in school.” (Johnston, 2005)...

References: (2006, August 10). Parents in Prison: The effects on children. Retrieved March 24, 2009, from Parents In Prison: the effects on children-10/08/ Web site:
Covington, Stephanie S. (January 30-31, 2002).A Woman 's Journey Home: Challenges for Female Offenders and Their Children. National Policy Conference. From Prison to Home: The effect of Incarceration and reentry on Children, Families, and Communities. 2-18.
Drummond, Tammerlin (2000, October 29). Mothers In Prison. Retrieved April 3, 2009, from Mothers in Prison-TIME Web site:,9171,58996,00.html?iid=digg_share
Eddy, J. Mark, & Reid, John B. (Dec 2001). The Antisocial Behavior of the Adolescent Children of Incarcerated Parents: A Developmental Perspective. National Policy Conference From Prison to Home: The Effect of Incarceration and Reentry on Children, Families and Communities. 1-20.
National Center on Fathers and Families. (1998). Fathers in Prison: A Review of the Data (NCOFF Brief: Fathers In Prison). Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania.
Parke, Ross. D., & Clarke-Stewart, K. Alison (December 2001). Effects of Parental Incarceration on Young Children. National Policy Conference. From Prison to Home: The Effect of Incarceration and Reentry on Children, Families and Communities. 1-23.
PBS, Troop 1500 Inmate Mothers. Retrieved March 24, 2009, from Independent Lens, Troop 1500, Inmate Mothers, PBS Web site:
The Impacts of enhances Visitation Programs: A Research Synthesis. L.I.F.E. The Living Interactive Family Education Program, Retrieved March 24, 2009, from
RI.Gov. (December 24, 2007). RIDOC Parent/Child Visitation Program Fosters Positive Relationships Cranston: DOC. RI. Gov.
TN. DOC, Inmate Programs, Child Visitation Program. Retrieved March 24, 2009, from Child Visitation Program Web site:
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