Effects of Parental Incarceration: Strains, Negative Emotions, and Mental Health




Galvan, Abigail

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A mid-year 2007 estimate conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that 52% of state and 63% of federal inmates reported being parents to an estimated 1.7 million children (Lee et al., 2013). Previous research indicates that parental incarceration can lead to many secondary consequences, including increased strain. This increased strain can lead to mental health decline (Lee et al., 2013). There is limited research, however, examining what role negative emotions play in this relationship. General strain theory suggests that strain leads to negative emotions, which lead to adverse reactions. The most common adverse reaction studied in criminology is delinquency, but other adverse reactions, such as compromised mental health, are possible (Agnew, 1992). The current study draws on general strain theory as a framework by examining the relationships between parental incarceration, negative emotions, and mental health. Using convenience sampling, a survey was administered to 71 undergraduate students attending a large university in the southwest through the Qualtrics system. Findings indicate that there is no statistically significant indirect relationship between parental incarceration, negative emotions, and the Brief Symptoms Inventory (BSI) or any of its subscales. Further, there were only two statistically significant relationships between parental incarceration and the BSI Global or its subscales; parental incarceration and somatization and parental incarceration and paranoid ideation were both negatively related.



adverse childhood experiences, secondary consequences of incarceration, incarcerated parents, self-reported mental health, negative emotional affect


Galvan, A. (2022). Effects of parental incarceration: Strains, negative emotions, and mental health</i> (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.


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