Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Parents Behind Bars: What Happens to Their Children?

"Children do not often figure in discussions of incarceration, but new research finds more than five million U.S. children have had at least one parent in prison at one time or another-about three times higher than earlier estimates that included only children with a parent currently incarcerated" (p. 1). This is an excellent report examining the prevalence of incarceration amongst parents and the associated consequences for their children. Sections of this report include: overview; key findings and implications; background; results for who experiences parental incarceration, children with an incarcerated parent are more likely to experience additional adverse events, and what other aspects of child well-being are related to parental incarceration, after accounting for other confounding influences; discussion; and implications. Appendixes include three tables showing children with an incarcerated parent by select measures, measures for children younger than six, and measures for youth ages 6-17; and "Programs Serving Children with Incarcerated Parents" which provides a description of the program, location, and website. "We need effective programs to mitigate the harm associated with having an incarcerated parent. Although in-prison training programs focused on parenting skills are common, few are focused on meeting the needs of children directly during the time parents are in prison" (p. 9).