Effects of Parental Incarceration on Children: Lessons from International Research

  • Kirsten L. BesemerEmail author
  • Susan M. Dennison
  • Catrien C. J. H. Bijleveld
  • Joseph Murray


In recent years, the increasing availability of longitudinal datasets has made it possible to investigate the consequences of parental imprisonment for children living in different countries. In this chapter, we compare international findings on three child outcomes hypothesized to be affected by parental imprisonment: offending, substance use, and mental illness. By comparing results across countries, we consider which effects of parental imprisonment on children are internationally generalizable. We find that with the current evidence available, it is difficult to disentangle cross-national differences in the effects of parental imprisonment on children from differences in sample selection, time of data collection, and other differences in research design. However, the increasing diversity and richness of international data sources nevertheless widen the focus of research on parental imprisonment in new ways. We make suggestions for research directions that will extend knowledge about the specific circumstances and mechanisms that determine whether and how imprisonment affects close family members of prisoners.


Paternal imprisonment Maternal imprisonment Intergenerational effects Intergenerational offending Drug use Cross-national comparisons Longitudinal research Parental imprisonment Children of prisoners Prison 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kirsten L. Besemer
    • 1
    Email author
  • Susan M. Dennison
    • 1
  • Catrien C. J. H. Bijleveld
    • 2
  • Joseph Murray
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Criminology and Criminal JusticeGriffith UniversityQueenslandAustralia
  2. 2.Faculty of Law, Criminology, Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law EnforcementVrije Universiteit AmsterdamAmsterdamNetherlands
  3. 3.Center for Epidemiological ResearchUniversidade Federal de PelotasPelotasBrazil

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