Parental Incarceration as a Risk Factor for Children in Homeless Families

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The current study aimed to describe the prevalence of children of incarcerated parents (COIP) in a sample of homeless/highly mobile children, examine the relationship between parental incarceration and other risk factors, and investigate the effect of parental incarceration on child academic and mental health outcomes. The authors compared COIP (n=45) to children whose parents were never incarcerated (n=93) within a sample of 138, 4- to 7-year-old ethnically diverse children residing in emergency homeless shelters. Children's caregivers provided information about children's history of parental incarceration and other family experiences. Children's teachers reported academic and mental health outcomes in the subsequent school year. Compared to children with no history of parental incarceration, COIP experienced more negative life events. Regression models revealed that a history of parental incarceration was a significant predictor of teacher-reported internalizing problems. These results have implications for the identification and treatment of the highest risk homeless/highly mobile children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)490-504
Number of pages15
JournalFamily relations
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 by the National Council on Family Relations.


  • Homeless/highly mobile
  • Mental health
  • Negative life events
  • Parental incarceration


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