For children who have a parent or both parents currently doing time in jail, the situation can be an upsetting one to deal with. The affected child in question could be forced to live with another family member, or- worst case scenario- be forced to live with a foster family instead. It's something that no child should ever have to go through. The child feels different and upset about the absent parent, and there's nothing that they can do to fix the situation quickly.
The negative effects on a child who has a parent in jail are long-lasting, though. New research recently came out to reveal that children with an incarcerated parent are six times more likely to suffer from substance abuse. In addition, these children are two times more likely to have anxiety issues or be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder of sorts.
But that wasn't all. According to the Center for Child and Family Policy from Duke University's Sanford School of Public Policy, children with an incarcerated parent are more likely to face certain hardships in adulthood more than children without an incarcerated parent. This includes being arrested and charged with a felony (35 percent vs. 11.5 percent); dropping out of high school (25.5 percent vs. five percent); dealing with teen pregnancy (14.3 percent vs. 2.8 percent); experiencing financial hardships (37.2 percent vs. 17.5 percent); and being socially isolated from others (24.5 percent vs. 9.4 percent). So, a child who has a parent in jail has a stronger chance of a hard life as an adult, when compared to their peers.
The co-author of the study, William E. Copeland from the University of Vermont, noted the severity of what was discovered.
"The increased risk for adverse adult outcomes remained after accounting for childhood psychiatric status and other adversities, suggesting that parental incarceration is associated with profound and long-lasting effects for children. This increased risk persisted whether the incarcerated parent was biologically related to the child or not. Risk for adverse adult outcomes increased further with each additional incarcerated parent figure," Copeland explained.
The research studied here was collected between 1993 to 2015 from children living in North Carolina's Appalachian Mountains. The ages ranged wildly, from nine years old to 30 years old. All adults that care and/or discipline a child most of the time are considered to be parental figures. What was found was that parental figures make up 23.9 percent of incarcerated individuals. This is quite an increase from older studies that are similar, which was about eight to 11 percent.
In terms of the racial divide of prisoners, there was a noticeable difference found in this study. In terms of incarcerated adults, 47.9 percent are American Indians, while 42.7 percent among African-Americans. This in sharp contrast to whites, where the percent there was 21.4 percent. As far as which parental figure is in jail more, fathers made up the difference by a staggering 87.9 percent.
This study is quite important when you learn that the United States has the dubious honour of having one of the highest incarceration rates in the world. More importantly, however, is that over half of those in the U.S. currently in jail are parents of children under 18 years old. With over 2.7 million children having one or both parents in jail, understanding both the short-term and long-term effects of this will help figure out how to help children affected by this negative situation.