Where Did All the Parents Go?: An Intergenerational Approach to Incarceration

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Powers, Presley Halen
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Middle Tennessee State University
The United States incarcerates more people than any other developed nation in the world. However, the effects of incarceration are not limited to those incarcerated. The friends, family, employers, and children of that person also realize the consequences. In fact, millions of children experience the effects of parental incarceration before the time they reach maturity. In addition, research suggests that children of incarcerated parents have an increased likelihood of imprisonment. Using the 2004 Survey of Inmates in State and Federal Correctional Facilities, this study adds to the growing body of literature examining intergenerational incarceration. Specially, a series of binary logistic regression models examine how parent’s incarceration (first-generation) predicts the likelihood an inmate having a child incarcerated as well (third generation). Attention is given to the sex of the parent for first and second generations (i.e., mothers or fathers), strains and stressors such as physical abuse by a parent and prior parental incarceration, and sociodemographic factors. Findings suggest that female inmates were over three times more likely to have an incarcerated child compared to male inmates. Key to the research, having had an incarcerated parent significantly increased the likelihood of children’s incarceration by a factor of 2.758. This pattern holds across all models except mothers and incarcerated sons. Physical abuse by a parent and prior imprisonment both increased the odds of having an incarcerated child. Being married also resulted in higher odds of third-generation incarceration, but only for male inmates. These findings are discussed with reference to existing research and theory.
Criminology, Incarceration, Intergenerational, Quantitative, Sociology, Theory, Sociology, Criminology, Social research