The Impact of Parental Incarceration on Adolescent Offending




Fernandez, Allison J.

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Approximately 5 million children in the United States have been affected by parental incarceration, which is about 7% of all children in the United States (Murphey & Cooper, 2015). Studies have demonstrated that parental incarceration leads to negative outcomes for these children (Cochran, Siennick, & Mears, 2018; Dallaire, Ciccone, & Wilson, 2012; Foster & Hagan, 2013; Murray, Loeber, & Pardini, 2012). Although it is well established that experiencing parental incarceration generally increases poor outcomes for children, less is known about the specific processes that lead to these negative outcomes. The current studies seek to identify potential mediating pathways between parental incarceration and future delinquent behavior using two longitudinal datasets that include middle/high school students and serious adolescent offenders. A community sample is used for Study 1 (Rural Substance Abuse and Violence Project) and an at-risk sample is used for Study 2 (The Pathways to Desistance Study). In Study 1, parental incarceration resulted in more antisocial beliefs, neutralization of delinquent behavior, and antisocial peers as well as fewer school bonds, less maternal attachment, paternal attachment, and parental monitoring. Adolescents with lower levels of self-control also commit more crime than their counterparts. The relationship between parental incarceration and offending is mediated by antisocial beliefs, neutralization, school bonds, delinquent peers, paternal attachment, and maternal monitoring. Study 2 did not have significant findings using the 18-month follow-up measure. In the 12-84-month outcome measure, parental incarceration increases offending while self-control significantly decreases offending.



Delinquency, Antisocial behavior, Mediation, Mediating factors, Families, Parenting


Fernandez, A. J. (2022). <i>The impact of parental incarceration on adolescent offending</i> (Unpublished dissertation). Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.


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