A Research and Intervention Agenda for Children with Incarcerated Parents and Their Families

  • Julie Poehlmann-TynanEmail author
  • J. Mark Eddy


We had two primary goals when we embarked on assembling this second edition. First, we aimed to summarize and synthesize recent research on children with incarcerated parents and their families that have been conducted across a variety of disciplines, including promising intervention approaches, for a range of audiences. And second, we sought to stimulate high quality, collaborative, interdisciplinary research that will generate information needed by families, practitioners and policymakers to prevent the development of problems and promote the health and well-being of the children with incarcerated parents and their families and communities. With these goals in mind, in this concluding chapter we tie together and elaborate upon the suggestions for research and intervention that have emerged in the preceding chapters. We present an agenda for future research around three conceptual issues: (1) the importance of infusing a social justice perspective that recognizes the importance of and attempts to ameliorate racial and economic disparities when investigating or intervening on the effects of mass incarceration on children and families, (2) the importance of adopting a developmental perspective in research and intervention with children with incarcerated parents, and (3) the need for interdisciplinary scholarship and intervention focusing on resilience processes not only in individuals but also in families. We suggest approaches to various challenges that arise in the areas of research, practice, and policy when working with this population that must be faced in future studies and applied work. We end by highlighting the importance of interdisciplinary collaborations for moving the field forward.


  1. Abraham, W. T., & Russell, D. W. (2004). Missing data: A review of current methods and applications in epidemiological research. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 17, 315–321.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alexander, M. (2012). The new Jim Crow: Mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness. The New Press.Google Scholar
  3. Arditti, J. A. (2003). Locked doors and glass walls: Family visiting at a local jail. Journal of Loss and Trauma, 8, 115–138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Arditti, J. A. (2018). Parental incarceration and family inequality in the United States. In R. Condry & P. Scharff Smith (Eds.), Prisons, punishment, and the family: Towards a new sociology of punishment. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Bell, M. F., Bayliss, D. M., Glauert, R., & Ohan, J. L. (2018). Using linked data to investigate developmental vulnerabilities in children of convicted parents. Developmental Psychology, 54(7), 1219–1231.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Capaldi, D. M., & Patterson, G. R. (1987). An approach to the problem of recruitment and retention rates for longitudinal research. Behavioral Assessment, 9, 169–177.Google Scholar
  7. Cecil, D. K., McHale, J., Strozier, A., & Pietsch, J. (2008). Female inmates, family caregivers, and young children’s adjustment: A research agenda and implications for corrections programming. Journal of Criminal Justice, 36, 513–521.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cicchetti, D., Rogosch, F. A., & Toth, S. L. (1998). Maternal depressive disorder and contextual risk: Contributions to the development of attachment insecurity and behavior problems in toddlerhood. Development and Psychopathology, 10, 283–300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Conduct Problems Prevention Research Group. (2002). The implementation of the Fast Track Program: An example of a large-scale prevention science efficacy trial. Journal of Abnormal and Child Psychology, 30, 1–17.Google Scholar
  10. Copp, J. E., Giordano, P. C., Manning, W. D., & Longmore, M. A. (2018). Parental incarceration and child well-being: Conceptual and practical concerns regarding the use of propensity scores. Socius, 4, 1–12.Google Scholar
  11. Dallaire, D. H. (2007). Children with incarcerated mothers: Developmental outcomes, special challenges and recommendations. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 28, 15–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dallaire, D. H., & Wilson, L. C. (2010). The relation of exposure to parental criminal activity, arrest, and sentencing to children’s maladjustment. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 19(4), 404–418.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. DuVernay, A., & Moran, J. (2016). 13TH. Retrieved from USA.
  14. Eddy, B. A., Powell, M. J., Szuba, M. H., McCool, M. L., & Kuntz, S. (2001). Challenges in research with incarcerated parents and importance in violence prevention. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 20(Suppl. 1), 56–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Eddy, J. M., Martinez, C. R., Jr., Schiffmann, T., Newton, R., Olin, L., Leve, L., et al. (2008). Development of a multisystemic parent management training intervention for incarcerated parents, their children and families. Clinical Psychologist, 12, 86–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Flay, B. R., Biglan, A., Boruch, R. F., Gonzalez Castro, F., Gottfredson, D., Kellam, S., et al. (2005). Standards of evidence: Criteria for efficacy, effectiveness, and dissemination. Prevention Science, 6, 151–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Foster, H., & Hagan, J. (2009). The mass incarceration of parents in America: Issues of race/ethnicity, collateral damage to children, and prisoner reentry. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 623(1), 179–194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Geller, A., Garfinkel, I., Cooper, C. E., & Mincy, R. B. (2009). Parental incarceration and child well-being: Implications for urban families. Social Science Quarterly, 90(5), 1186–1202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Glaze, L. E., & Maruschak, L. M. (2008). Special report: Parents in prison and their minor children. Washington, DC: U. S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics.Google Scholar
  20. Hanlon, T. E., Blatchley, R. J., Bennett-Sears, T., O’Grady, K. E., Rose, M., & Callaman, J. M. (2005). Vulnerability of children of incarcerated addict mothers: Implications for preventive interventions. Children and Youth Services Review, 27, 67–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hanson, J. L., Hair, N., Shen, D. G., Shi, F., Gilmore, J. H., Wolfe, B. L., et al. (2013). Family poverty affects the rate of human infant brain growth. PLoS ONE, 8(12), e80954.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Huebner, B. M., & Gustafson, R. (2007). The effect of maternal incarceration on adult offspring involvement in the criminal justice system. Journal of Criminal Justice, 35, 283–296.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. James, D., & Glaze, L. (2006). Mental health problems of prison and jail inmates (NCJ 182335). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report.Google Scholar
  24. Kjellstrand, J., Yu, G., Eddy, J. M., & Martinez Jr, C. R. (2018). Children of incarcerated parents: Developmental trajectories of externalizing behavior across adolescence. Criminal Justice and Behavior. 0093854818785400.Google Scholar
  25. Ko, S. J., Ford, J. D., Kassam-Adams, N., Berkowitz, S. J., Wilson, C., Wong, M., Brymer, M. J., & Layne, C. M. (2008). Creating trauma-informed systems: Child welfare, education, first responders, health care, juvenile justice. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 39(4), 396.Google Scholar
  26. Lee, A. F., Genty, P. M., & Laver, M. (2005). The impact of the adoption and safe families act on children of incarcerated parents. Washington, DC: Child Welfare League of America.Google Scholar
  27. MacKinnon, D. P., & Lockwood, C. M. (2004). Advances in statistical methods for substance abuse prevention research. Prevention Science, 4, 155–171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Masten, A. S. (2014). Ordinary magic: Resilience in development. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  29. Masten, A. S., & Coatsworth, J. D. (1998). The development of competence in favorable and unfavorable environments: Lessons from research on successful children. American Psychologist, 53, 205–220.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Muentner, L., Holder, N., Burnson, C., Runion, H., Weymouth, L., & Poehlmann-Tynan, J. (2018). Jailed parents and their young children: Residential instability, homelessness, and behavior problems. Journal of Child and Family Studies. 1–17.Google Scholar
  31. Murphey, D., & Cooper, P. M. (2015). Parents behind bars: What happens to their children. Child Trends, 42, 1–22.Google Scholar
  32. Murray, J., & Farrington, D. P. (2005). Parental imprisonment: Effects on boys’ antisocial behaviour and delinquency through the life course. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 46, 1269–1278.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Murray, J., & Farrington, D. P. (2008). The effects of parental imprisonment on children. In M. Tonry (Ed.), Crime and justice: A review of research (Vol. 37, pp. 133–206). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  34. Poehlmann, J. (2003). An attachment perspective on grandparents raising their very young grandchildren: Implications for intervention and research. Infant Mental Health Journal, 24, 149–173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Poehlmann, J. (2005a). Representations of attachment relationships in children of incarcerated mothers. Child Development, 76, 679–696.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Poehlmann, J. (2005b). Incarcerated mothers’ contact with children, perceived family relationships, and depressive symptoms. Journal of Family Psychology, 19, 350–357.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Poehlmann-Tynan, J., & Arditti, J. A. (2018). Developmental and family perspectives on parental incarceration. In C. Wildeman, A. R. Haskins, & J. Poehlmann-Tynan (Eds.), When parents are incarcerated: Interdisciplinary research and interventions to support children. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  38. Poehlmann-Tynan, J., Burnson, C., Weymouth, L. A., & Runion, H. (2017). Attachment in young children with incarcerated fathers. Development and Psychopathology, 29, 389–404.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Poehlmann-Tynan, J., Cuthrell, H., Weymouth, L., & Burnson, C. (2018). Incarcerated parents. In APA handbook of contemporary family psychology (Vol. 2). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  40. Reid, J. B., Patterson, G. R., & Snyder, J. J. (Eds.), (2002). Antisocial behavior in children: Developmental theories and models for intervention. Washington, DC: APA.Google Scholar
  41. Shadish, W. R., Cook, T. D., & Campbell, D. T. (2002). Experimental and quasi-experimental designs for generalized causal inference. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin.Google Scholar
  42. Shlafer, R. J., & Poehlmann, J. (2010). Attachment and caregiving relationships in families affected by parental incarceration. Attachment & Human Development, 12(4), 395–415.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Siegel, J. A. (2011). Disrupted childhoods: Children of women in prison. Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
  44. Snyder, J., Reid, J. B., Stoolmiller, M., Howe, G., Brown, H., Dagne, G., et al. (2006). The role of behavior observation in measurement systems for randomized prevention trials. Prevention Science, 7, 43–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Sroufe, L. A. (1991). Considering normal and abnormal together: The essence of developmental psychopathology. Development and Psychopathology, 2, 335–347.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Turney, K., & Wildeman, C. (2015). Detrimental for some? Heterogeneous effects of maternal incarceration on child wellbeing. Criminology & Public Policy, 14(1), 125–156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Wagner, P., & Sawyer, W. (2018 March 14). Mass incarceration: The whole pie 2018. Prison Policy Initiative. Retrieved on 11/11/2018 from
  48. Wakefield, S., & Wildeman, C. (2013). Children of the prison boom: Mass incarceration and the future of American inequality. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  49. Webster-Stratton, C., & Hammond, M. A. (1997). Treating children with early onset conduct problems: A comparison of child and parent training interventions. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 65, 93–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Webster-Stratton, C., & Hammond, M. A. (1998). Preventing conduct problems in head start children: Strengthening parenting competencies. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 66, 715–730.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Werner, E. E. (2000). Protective factors and individual resilience. In J. P. Shonkoff & S. J. Meisels (Eds.), Handbook of early childhood intervention (2nd ed., pp. 115–132). NY: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  52. Wildeman, C., Haskins, A. R., & Poehlmann-Tynan, J. (2017). When parents are incarcerated: Interdisciplinary research and interventions to support children. APA Bronfenbrenner Series on the Ecology of Human Development: APA Books.Google Scholar
  53. Zeng, Z. (2018). Jail inmates in 2016. U.S. Department of Justice. February 2018. NCJ 251210.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Human Development and Family Studies, School of Human EcologyUniversity of Wisconsin–MadisonMadisonUSA
  2. 2.Family Translational Research Group, Department of Cariology and Comprehensive Care, College of DentistryNew York UniversityNew YorkUSA

Personalised recommendations