Crouch, E., Smith, H. P., & Andersen, T. S. (2022). An examination of caregiver incarceration, positive childhood experiences, and school success. Children and Youth Services Review, 133, 106345. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2021.106345
Summarized by Ariel Ervin
Notes of Interest:
- Although previous studies have investigated family & school connectedness and lifetime educational achievements of incarcerated adults, there aren’t as many that examine the relationship between caregiver incarceration and barriers to school success among their children.
- This study explores the relationship between parental incarceration and school absenteeism & repeating a grade, where child & caregiver traits are controlled.
- It also assesses the relationship between parental incarceration and positive youth experiences (PCEs), where child & caregiver traits are controlled.
- Although many youths of incarcerated caregivers have PCEs and experience school success, they do so at significantly lower levels than youths with non-incarcerated caregivers.
- Youth exposed to household incarceration are more likely to repeat a grade than youth who have no exposure.
- Youth exposed to household incarceration are also less likely to live in a supportive neighborhood than youth who have no exposure.
- PCEs might be useful for policy interventions since they are built on existing community-level assets, like mentoring programs.
- Programs that promote PCEs of the youth of incarcerated caregivers might help alleviate some of the effects household incarcerations have on them.
Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)
Positive childhood experiences (PCEs) foster healthy child development. Yet little is known about the degree to which children of incarcerated parents are exposed to positive childhood experiences (PCEs), such as participation in after-school activities, volunteering in the community, and residing in a safe and supportive neighborhood. We analyzed 2017–2018 data from the National Survey of Children’s Health to examine the relationship between caregiver incarceration and two academic outcomes, repeating a grade and school absenteeism, controlling for child and caregiver characteristics, and to examine the relationship between caregiver incarceration and PCEs, controlling for child and caregiver characteristics. Children exposed to household incarceration had higher odds of repeating a grade than children not exposed to household incarceration (aOR 1.62; 95% CI 1.23–2.13). Children with exposure to household incarceration had lower odds of residing in a supportive neighborhood than children without exposure to household incarceration (aOR 0.77; 95% CI 0.64–0.93). Findings from this study can be used by policymakers and program developers in the development and implementation of programs for children with incarcerated parents.
Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)
To our knowledge, this is the first study to utilize a nationally representative survey of the general population to examine the relationship between caregiver incarceration and PCEs, and of few studies to examine caregiver incarceration and challenges to school success. Prior work examining the relationship between caregiver incarceration and school success factors used older national datasets or datasets that were not nationally representative (Nichols and Loper, 2012, Hagan and Foster, 2012). Furthermore, there is little known about the quantification of PCEs among children with incarcerated caregivers. A key finding is that children with incarcerated parents were less likely to live in safe or supportive neighborhoods than their peers with non-incarcerated parents, in adjusted analysis.
An overarching takeaway from the findings is that children with incarcerated parents or guardians experience higher rates of poverty than children without incarcerated parents or guardians (Nichols & Loper, 2012). Earlier studies using national datasets found a 6.7% household incarceration rate, roughly consistent with our study’s findings of an 8.7% parent or guardian incarceration rate (Nichols and Loper, 2012, Hagan and Foster, 2012). Moreover, the current study offers support for the notion that residing below the poverty level is associated with repeating a grade in school. The relationship between economic hardship and academic success has been well established, with economic hardship associated with caregiver distress and less predictable parenting, which may impact the ability of children to focus and perform in school settings (Sirin, 2005, Gutman et al., 2005). Furthermore, there is a relationship between school funding and achievement across lower and higher income neighborhoods, which may also be confounding the relationships discussed here (Baker et al., 2016). The impact of structural racism must also be recognized with minority children being overly represented as children of incarcerated parents. African-American and Hispanic children have been shown to have much higher odds of experiencing household incarceration, with this link being generational with just under half of incarcerated parents not having their high school diploma or GED (Glaze & Maruschak, 2016).
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