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Pathways Linking Parental Incarceration and Child Well-Being: Final Summary Report

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 2020
39 pages

This is the Final Summary Report on a project that collected and analyzed survey data that pertained to the effect of parental criminal justice contact on a range of well-being outcomes - including conduct problems, academic readiness/achievement, and emotional and physical health – among children born to participants in the Toledo Adolescent Relationships Study (TARS).


TARS is a 20-year mixed-method longitudinal study that focused on the lives of a diverse sample of 1,321 men and women interviewed first as adolescents and four additional times across the transition to adulthood. The current data collection, referred to as wave 6, included an online survey that focused on parenting (respondents averaged 31 years old). Wave 6 data, combined with previously collected data, enabled a comprehensive basis for assessing variation in mothers’ and fathers’ criminal justice contact and their children’s well-being. The three aims of this study were 1) data collection and analyses of parents’ criminal justice contact and their reports of children’s well-being outcomes; 2) data collection and assessment of variability in crime and incarceration exposure across the child’s social network; and 3) data collection and investigation of incarceration-specific hypotheses about mediating mechanisms. This report notes that the respondents in this project were limited to the parents, who consisted of 277 mothers and 226 fathers who entered adulthood during a period in the United States characterized by a heavy reliance on incarceration in criminal justice policy. The distinctive contribution of this study is the focus on the behavioral repertoires of parents (criminal involvement, substance use, intimate partner violence) and a range of problem behaviors in the household and the child’s interactions with problem relatives outside the home. Future analyses are discussed. 4 figures, 2 tables, and 30 references

Date Published: December 1, 2020