Parental incarceration among adolescents receiving mental health services

Journal Article

The Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that approximately 1 in every 50 youth in the U.S. had a parent in State or Federal prison in 1999. Studies of children of incarcerated parents suggest that these youth are at risk for experiencing emotional and behavioral problems. Using a sample of 258 adolescents receiving routine mental health services, this study explored: (1) differences in demographic characteristics, lifetime exposure to risk factors, recent stressful life experiences, and clinical profiles of adolescents with and without a history of parental incarceration; and (2) the effect of parental incarceration relative to other risk factors on levels of emotional and behavioral problems and treatment outcomes. Nearly half (43%) of the youth studied had experienced the incarceration of one or both parents. Youth who experienced parental incarceration had been exposed to significantly more risk factors during their lifetimes including parental substance abuse, extreme poverty, and abuse or neglect. They were more likely than other treated youth to present with attention-deficit/hyperactivity and conduct disorders and less likely to have major depression. Findings provide preliminary evidence that parental incarceration may have a discrete negative effect on certain outcomes of treatment. © 2002 Human Sciences Press, Inc.

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Phillips, SD; Burns, BJ; Ryan Wagner, H; Kramer, TL; Robbins, JM

Published Date

  • December 1, 2002

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 11 / 4

Start / End Page

  • 385 - 399

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1062-1024

Citation Source

  • Scopus