Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology
Children of incarcerated mothers are at increased risk for social and emotional difficulties, yet few studies have investigated potential mechanisms of risk within this population. This research simultaneously examined the association of children's experience of incarceration-specific risk factors (e.g., witness mother's arrest) and environmental risks (e.g., low educational attainment) to children's psychological maladaptation using a multi-informant design and a latent variable analytic approach. Participants were 117 currently incarcerated mothers (64.1% African American), their 151 children (53.6% boys, M age=9.8 years, range=6-12 years, 61.7% African American), and the 118 caregivers (74.8% female, 61.9% grandparents, 62.2% African American) of the children. Mothers, children, and caregivers each provided accounts of children's experiences related to maternal incarceration and children's internalizing and externalizing behavior problems. Mothers and caregivers each supplied information about 10 environmental risk factors. Findings from structural equation modeling indicate that children's incarceration-specific risk experiences predict internalizing and externalizing behavior problems whereas the influence of environmental risks was negligible. Follow-up analyses examining the contribution of specific risks indicate that significant predictors differ by reporter and separate into effects of family incarceration history and direct experiences of maternal incarceration. Incarceration-specific experiences place children at higher risk for maladjustment than exposure to general environmental risk factors. These findings indicate the need to critically examine children's exposure to experiences related to maternal incarceration and family incarceration history to help to clarify the multifaceted stressor of maternal incarceration.
Dallaire, D. H., Zeman, J. L., & Thrash, T. M. (2015). Children's experiences of maternal incarceration-specific risks: Predictions to psychological maladaptation. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 44(1), 109-122.