Paternal Incarceration and Father–Child Contact in Fragile Families

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High rates of incarceration in the United States have motivated a broad examination of the effects of parental incarceration on child well-being. Although a growing literature documents challenges facing the children of incarcerated men, most incarcerated fathers lived apart from their children before their arrest, raising questions of whether they were sufficiently involved with their families for their incarceration to affect their children. The author used the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (N = 4,071) to examine father–child contact among incarcerated fathers and found that most incarcerated fathers maintained a degree of contact with their children through either coresidence or visitation. Moreover, the results revealed robust reductions in both father–child coresidence and visitation when fathers are incarcerated—between 18% and 20% for coresidence and 30% to 50% for the probability of visitation. The findings suggest that these reductions are driven by both incapacitation while incarcerated and union dissolution upon release.

Related Topics

  • Behavioral Health
  • Child Welfare
  • Fathers/Partners
  • Parenting
  • Trauma