Much of the current literature regarding the well being of children of incarcerated parents has focused largely on the trauma that results from losing a parent to incarceration. Little research has been dedicated to examining the pre-existing trauma and negative life experiences these children are exposed to prior to parental incarceration. Using cross-sectional data on children (N = 1,221) from a representative study of Arizona Department of Corrections inmates, the present study examines the relationships among children who have contact with Child Protective Services (CPS) prior to parental incarceration and: (1) parental substance abuse, (2) exposure to violence and (3) parental mental illness. Nearly a quarter of all children whose inmate parents were interviewed were contacted by CPS before experiencing parental incarceration. Children whose inmate parents reported being unemployed or less involved in the lives of their children and children who were reportedly exposed to violence were significantly more likely to have been contacted by CPS prior to experiencing parental incarceration as were younger children. The children of incarcerated mothers were more likely to have been contacted by CPS than were the children of incarcerated fathers. This effect remained even after controlling for additional parent, child and family risk factors for CPS contact such as prior history of incarceration and race. (Author abstract)
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Children of Incarcerated Parents: The Family Characteristics Associated With Child Welfare Contact Prior to Parental Incarceration.