Authors: Davis L, Shlafer RJ
J Adolesc. 2017 Jan;54:120-134
Reliable information about children of incarcerated people is difficult to obtain, and major gaps exist in our understanding of their well-being. This study aims to determine whether adolescents with incarcerated parents report higher levels of mental health problems than those without an incarcerated parent, and whether the relationship between parental incarceration and adolescent mental health is moderated by parent-child relationships. Using a statewide survey from one US state, we compared adolescents with a currently incarcerated parent to those with a formerly incarcerated parent and those with no history of parental incarceration on self-reported indicators of mental health, and examined whether strong parent-child relationships were protective against mental health concerns. Results indicate that adolescents with incarcerated parents are at elevated risk for mental health problems, and strong parent-child relationships partially buffer children from risk. Findings underscore the need for more investment in effective early interventions for adolescents in highly adverse contexts.