Paternal Incarceration and Father Involvement in Fragile Families

Amanda B. Geller, Columbia University
Irwin Garfinkel, Columbia University

The involvement of fathers in their children’s lives has the potential to enable children’s secure attachments, thereby improving child wellbeing. However, increasing rates of incarceration over the past 30 years have created a generation in which millions of children have fathers who have spent time in prison or jail. Little is known about how this incarceration affects family functioning. We use the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study to examine the links between paternal incarceration and father involvement. Using cross-sectional and longitudinal regression models, we assess the extent to which father-child contact might be compromised by paternal incarceration, and whether estimated effects are more closely tied to an increased likelihood of parental separation, or by diminished visitation among consistently nonresident fathers. Finally, because the presence of an antisocial father may compromise rather than improve child wellbeing, we examine whether incarceration’s effects are systematically different in families with domestic violence histories.

  See extended abstract

Presented in Session 125: Incarceration and Demographic Implications