Date Thesis Awarded


Document Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)




Adrian Bravo and Meghan Sinton-Miller

Committee Members

Meghan Sinton-Miller

Kelly Crace


Parental incarceration affects millions of children in the United States annually yet researching the impact of parental incarceration is difficult given frequent co-occurring experiences of risk. Race, socioeconomic status, childhood exposure to violence, and childhood abuse are independently linked to parental incarceration and negative adult outcomes. Despite this difficulty, prior research demonstrates relationships between parental incarceration and delinquency and psychopathology in adulthood, therefore an understanding of protective factors that may offset this risk is necessary. Natural mentoring has become an increasingly popular area of study, as natural mentors are often more accessible to at-risk youth. The current study utilized a nationally representative dataset (N = 14,701) to: 1) examine parental incarceration in the context of concurrent exposure to risk and 2) examine natural mentors as buffers of the relationship between parental incarceration and likelihood of arrests, suicidality, and binge-drinking in young adulthood. Results indicated that parental incarceration predicted criminality (OR = 2.06; 95% CI = 1.72, 2.48), suicidal ideation (OR = 1.36; 95% CI = 1.07, 1.72), and binge-drinking (OR = 1.27; 95% CI = 1.02, 1.58) over and above cumulative exposure to risk. Results also demonstrated that an individuals’ closeness with a natural mentor during early adulthood marginally buffered the relationship between parental incarceration and suicidal ideation. These findings indicate that parental incarceration has a strong, independent impact on behavioral and psychological outcomes. The findings are also some of the first to examine natural mentors in the context of incarcerated parents and tentatively suggest that a greater degree of closeness with a non-parental adult could protect against suicidal ideation, but significantly future research is needed.

Keywords: incarceration, mentorship, delinquency, prevention

Available for download on Wednesday, December 08, 2021