Professor, Jane Addams College of Social Work
- Many incarcerated parents maintain some form of contact with their children and most parents plan to reside with them upon their release from prison.
- There is no solid evidence that parental incarceration predicts later-life incarceration among prisoners’ children. In fact, this assertion may increase the stigma that children with incarcerated parents experience, as they become mis identified as potential criminals and treated as threats to society.
- The majority of children of incarcerated parents do not exhibit delinquency or antisocial behavior, but they do need extra help to succeed in school.
- All risk factors – including poverty, parental substance abuse and family violence – must be recognized and accounted for in research, programs and policies.
- Research, resources, programs and policies need improvements in order to accurately assess the effects of parent imprisonment on children.
In the article, “Focus on Children with Incarcerated Parents,” Hairston provides an overview of major research findings during the last 20 years concerning children whose parents are incarcerated. Hairston assesses parent-child contact during incarceration, explains the economic, emotional and social consequences of parental incarceration and examines the parent child relationship when incarcerated parents return home. Additionally, Hairston offers an overview of programs and services currently available to incarcerated parents and their families and suggestions of how to improve upon the current offerings. Hairston concludes that research on children with incarcerated parents is still in its early stages and more comprehensive, broader research is needed to inform understanding, policy and programs to better understand the effects of parental incarceration on children.