Parental Arrest and Incarceration: How Does it Impact the Children?

63 Pages Posted: 11 Sep 2017 Last revised: 26 Jan 2019

Date Written: May 31, 2018


Parental arrest and incarceration represents a profound and traumatic experience for almost 3 million children in the U.S. and scholars in criminology and sociology consistently find negative impacts on children across a range of academic and behavioral outcomes. The research presented here provides evidence that parental arrest coincides with negative outcomes for children, but that the incarceration of a parent may benefit the child. Benefits occur for end-of-grade exams and behavioral (e.g. suspensions, absences) outcomes with positive effects concentrated among young children with mothers that commit violent crimes or fathers with alcohol/drug offenses. Results suggest that parental incarceration leads to the removal of a negative role model and changes in a child's home environment due to household reformation.

Keywords: parental incarceration

JEL Classification: K4

Suggested Citation

Billings, Stephen B., Parental Arrest and Incarceration: How Does it Impact the Children? (May 31, 2018). Available at SSRN: or

Stephen B. Billings (Contact Author)

University of Colorado - Boulder ( email )

Leeds School of Business
Koelbel Building
Boulder, CO US 80309
United States

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