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Identifying as a Troublemaker/Partier: The Influence of Parental Incarceration and Emotional Independence

NCJ Number
Journal of Child and Family Studies Volume: 29 Dated: 2020 Pages: 802-816
Date Published
15 pages

This article reports on an examination of the association between parental incarceration and young-adult children’s deviant self-identities and how this association may vary based on emotional independence or freedom from an excessive need for parental approval.


Researchers have found that experiencing parental incarceration has long-term consequences for children, such as involvement in crime. However, few studies have examined how parental incarceration impacts identity endorsement. Given that self-identities influence behavior, including criminal activity, understanding precursors of self-identities is important. In the current paper, the authors examined the association between parental incarceration and young adult children’s deviant self-identities. Furthermore, they explored how this association varied by emotional independence, or freedom from the excessive need for parental approval. The authors analyzed data from the Toledo Adolescent Relationships Study (TARS), a sample of men and women interviewed five times over a period of ten years (2001, 2002, 2004, 2006, and 2011), and publicly available official incarceration records. Results indicated that parental incarceration was only positively associated with identifying as a troublemaker/partier during young adulthood among those with low emotional independence (i.e., for those with the need for parental approval). That is, parental incarceration was inconsequential for young adults’ identifying as troublemakers/partiers among those with high levels of emotional independence (i.e., for those with freedom from the need for parental approval). These findings suggest that the development of high emotional independence, or values, beliefs, and identities in contrast to and separate from an incarcerated parent, may attenuate the intergenerational transmission of antisocial identities and behavior. Publisher Abstract Provided

Date Published: January 1, 2020