What Happens When Dad or Mom Goes To Prison: A New Study

“This data points out that children are the invisible victims of mass incarceration, and our country has not thought about the indirect costs.”




That’s how researchers described their findings in a new study on the health impacts having a parent in prison has on children. For more than 20 years, our No More Victims program has been providing teen children of incarcerated parents with the emotional and physical tools they need to beat the odds.


The study in the journal Pediatrics found that young adults who had a parent incarcerated during their childhood are more likely to skip needed healthcare, smoke cigarettes, engage in risky sexual behaviors, and abuse alcohol, prescription and illicit drugs. For example, the research from the University of Minnesota Medical School found:

Strikingly, incarceration of a mother during childhood, as opposed to a father, doubled the likelihood of young adults using the emergency department instead of a primary care setting for medical care. Young adults whose mothers had been incarcerated were also twice as likely to have sex in exchange for money, while those with histories of father incarceration were 2.5 times more likely to use intravenous drugs.


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