Challenges and Opportunities for Conducting Research on Children of Incarcerated Fathers
The rapid growth of mass incarceration in the United States means that a historically unprecedented number of children are exposed to paternal incarceration. Despite a growing literature investigating the intergenerational consequences of incarceration, little research collects information from the children who experience paternal incarceration. In this chapter, we describe an ongoing data collection effort, the Jail & Family Life Study, a longitudinal in-depth interview study designed to understand the consequences of paternal incarceration for families and children. Part of this study involves conducting in-depth interviews with 8- to 17-year-old children of incarcerated fathers during and after the father’s incarceration. First, we document the challenges and strategies to gaining access to children of incarcerated fathers, paying particular attention to the role of children’s mothers and caregivers in facilitating this access. Second, we document the challenges and strategies to developing rapport with this group of vulnerable children. Third, we describe the opportunities that children can provide for researchers. Taken together, these findings suggest that it is both challenging and imperative to incorporate children into research on the collateral consequences of incarceration.
Turney, Kristin, Britni L. Adams, Emma Conner, Rebecca Goodsell, and Janet Muñiz. 2017. “Challenges and Opportunities for Conducting Research on Children of Incarcerated Fathers.” Sociological Studies of Children & Youth 22:199–221.