Measuring the Exposure of Parents and Children to Incarceration

  • Bryan L. SykesEmail author
  • Becky Pettit


Estimates suggest that millions of children in the USA have a parent incarcerated in prison or jail each year. Data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ periodic surveys of imprisoned individuals; cohort studies including the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (FFCWS) and the National Survey of Adolescent Health (AddHealth); and large cross-sectional surveys like the National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH) have all been used to estimate parents’ and children’s risk of exposure to various dimensions of the criminal justice system. This chapter summarizes key studies that have sought to quantify parental incarceration and children’s exposure to having a parent incarcerated. We discuss how different methods of data collection and analytical strategies influence the measurement of parents’ and children’s contact with the criminal justice system as well as estimates of the relationship between parental incarceration and child outcomes, and we offer recommendations for future research and practice.


Parental Childhood Imprisonment Incarceration Prison boom Exposure Risk Measurement 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Criminology, Law and SocietyUniversity of California-IrvineIrvineUSA
  2. 2.Department of SociologyUniversity of Texas at AustinAustinUSA

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