Incarcerating Parenthood? Countervailing Consequences of Paternal Incarceration for Parenting

Kristin Turney, University of California, Irvine
Christopher Wildeman, Yale University

We extend research on the collateral consequences of incarceration by considering how incarceration affects parenting of biological fathers, biological mothers, and social fathers. Using longitudinal data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study and an exceptionally rigorous research design, we find that recent paternal incarceration sharply diminishes the quality of biological fathers’ parenting, especially for residential fathers. Furthermore, virtually all of this association can be explained by changes in fathers’ relationships with their children’s mothers. Effects on mothers’ parenting, however, are more inconsistent, as recent paternal incarceration is not consistently associated with any measure of maternal parenting across all modeling strategies. Our findings also show that recent paternal incarceration sharply increases the probability a mother will repartner, potentially offsetting some losses in the involvement of the biological father. Taken together, the collateral consequences of paternal incarceration for family life are complex and countervailing.

  See paper

Presented in Session 125: Incarceration and Demographic Implications