Parental Incarceration and the Family: Psychological and Social Effects of Imprisonment on Children, Parents, and Caregivers

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NYU Press, May 28, 2012 - Psychology - 258 pages

Over 2% of U.S.children under the age of 18—more than 1,700,000 children—have a parent in prison. These children experience very real disadvantages when compared to their peers: they tend to experience lower levels of educational success, social exclusion, and even a higher likelihood of their own future incarceration. Meanwhile, their new caregivers have to adjust to their new responsibilities as their lives change overnight, and the incarcerated parents are cut off from their children’s development.

Parental Incarceration and the Family brings a family perspective to our understanding of what it means to have so many of our nation’s parents in prison. Drawing from the field’s most recent research and the author’s own fieldwork, Joyce Arditti offers an in-depth look at how incarceration affects entire families: offender parents, children, and care-givers. Through the use of exemplars, anecdotes, and reflections, Joyce Arditti puts a human face on the mass of humanity behind bars, as well as those family members who are affected by a parent’s imprisonment. In focusing on offenders as parents, a radically different social policy agenda emerges—one that calls for real reform and that responds to the collective vulnerabilities of the incarcerated and their kin.


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A Framework for Understanding Parental Incarceration
2 Context and Processes Associated with Incarcerated Parenting
3 Maternal Incarceration
4 Paternal Incarceration
5 The Effects of Incarceration on Families and Children
Practice and Policy Implications of a Family Perspective on Parental Incarceration
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About the author (2012)

Joyce A. Arditti is Professor of Human Development at Virginia Tech. Her research interests include family disruption, parent-child relationships in vulnerable families, and public policy. Her scholarship is recognized nationally and abroad and she has published numerous empirical and review articles in therapy, human services, family studies, and criminal justice journals. Joyce recently served as the editor in chief of Family Relations: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Applied Family Studies.

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