Parental Incarceration During Middle Childhood and Adolescence

  • Rebecca J. ShlaferEmail author
  • Laurel Davis
  • Danielle H. Dallaire


In 2004, more than 500,000 children between 10 and 14 years, and more than 250,000 youth between 15 and 17 years old, had a parent incarcerated in prison. These figures underestimate the total number of older children and adolescents affected by a parent’s incarceration, as they do not account for over 700,000 adults who were held in local jails or the thousands of other adults with minor children who were on probation or parole during that same year. Middle childhood and adolescence are important developmental periods, each characterized by significant changes in cognitive, social, and emotional skills. Compared to infants and younger children, older children and adolescents have greater emotional and cognitive capacities to understand the facts about a parent’s incarceration, process the loss of their parent, and express their preferences about their living arrangements and contact with the incarcerated parent. In this chapter, we summarize the empirical research on parental incarceration among older children and adolescents, and consider the implications of a parent’s incarceration for children’s wellbeing at home, school, and in their communities.


Middle childhood Adolescence Parent–child relationships School 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rebecca J. Shlafer
    • 1
    Email author
  • Laurel Davis
    • 1
  • Danielle H. Dallaire
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PediatricsUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychological SciencesThe College of William & MaryWilliamsburgUSA

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