Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: Trajectories of Paternal Incarceration and Child Wellbeing

Saturday, November 14, 2015 : 10:15 AM
Johnson I (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Kristin Turney, University of California, Irvine and Christopher Wildeman, Cornell University
In response to the rising incarceration rates in the United States, a rapidly growing literature documents the mostly deleterious consequences of paternal incarceration for children’s academic, behavioral, and health outcomes. However, little is known about the dynamic relationship between paternal incarceration and children’s outcomes and if the deleterious consequences are relatively short-lived or long-lasting. In this article, drawing on the life course perspective and using data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, we employ growth curve models to examine trajectories of paternal incarceration and children’s academic, behavioral, and health outcomes. We find that, on average, children of incarcerated fathers have less favorable outcomes than their counterparts. But we also find that these inequalities between children with and without incarcerated fathers are relatively short-lived and decrease over time. Furthermore, the negative associations are concentrated among children living with their fathers prior to his incarceration. The results provide support for the crisis model that is commonly used to explain children’ s responses to another type of paternal absence—divorce. They also suggest that incarceration has complicated implications for the intergenerational transmission of disadvantage and the production of childhood inequalities.