U.S. Department of Justice

Seven Out of Ten? Not Even Close: A Review of Research on the Likelihood of Children with Incarcerated Parents Becoming Justice-Involved

Publication year: 2015
"It has been widely claimed without documentary evidence that children with incarcerated parents (CIP) are six times more likely than other children to become justice-involved, and that seven out of ten CIP will become justice-involved. These undocumented claims are important because (a) they have been used to justify public policy and (b) they are potentially stigmatizing to CIP. We reviewed six sources using representative sampling methods in a variety of countries and providing eight estimates of the approached the “seven out of ten” claim, and the mean across estimates was slightly more than three out of ten (32.8%). Our second conclusion was that CIP were more likely than non-CIP to become justice-involved, but not nearly six times as likely – on average CIP were about three times as likely as non-CIP to become justice-involved. Third, of the three studies employing control variables, in only one of them were the results consistent with the idea that parental incarceration may be the cause of elevated justice-involvement in CIP. Because the “six times more likely” and “seven out of ten” claims are unsupported by the data and potentially stigmatizing, these claims must be abandoned" (p. 5). Sections of this report cover: unsubstantiated claims about the likelihood of CIP justice-involvement; stigma and the effect of claims about CIP; purpose of this report and research questions; methods; results—likelihood of CIP becoming justice-involved, comparing CIP and non-CIP on the likelihood of becoming justice-involved, descriptions of studies providing estimates of the likelihood of CIP justice-involvement, and parental incarceration as a potential cause of CIP justice-involvement; discussion; and conclusion.