As Fathers and Felons: Explaining the Effects of Current and Recent Incarceration on Major Depression

Kristin Turney, University of California, Irvine
Christopher Wildeman, Yale University
Jason Schnittker, University of Pennsylvania

Dramatic increases in the American imprisonment rate since the mid-1970s have important implications for the life chances of marginal men, including for their health. In this article, we extend this research by considering the effects of incarceration on the risk of major depression using data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (N = 3,107). Results show substantial effects of current and recent incarceration on the risk of major depression across a variety of modeling strategies, suggesting both immediate and short-term implications. In addition, the results show the well-known effects of incarceration on socioeconomic status and family functioning partly explain these effects, suggesting the link between incarceration and mental health depends heavily on the effects of incarceration on economic and social reintegration, not only the direct psychological effects of confinement per se.

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Presented in Session 24: Demography of Mental Health