The Consequences of Paternal Incarceration for Maternal Neglect and Harsh Parenting
The rise in mass incarceration, as well as its unequal distribution across the population, may widen inequalities among individuals and families. In this manuscript, I use data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a data source uniquely situated to understand the collateral consequences of incarceration, to consider the consequences of paternal incarceration for an overlooked aspect of family life: maternal parenting (measured by neglect, psychological aggression, and physical aggression). Results show that, among parents living together prior to paternal incarceration, confinement has modest, positive associations with maternal neglect and physical aggression, and that changes in family life (including relationship characteristics, economic insecurity, and mental health) following incarceration explain some of these associations. Additionally, there is some evidence that the consequences of paternal incarceration for neglect are strongest among mothers with a low propensity for sharing a child with a recently incarcerated father. Taken together, these results suggest that incarceration—given its concentration among disadvantaged families and, at least in one domain, its most consequential effects for the most advantaged of these disadvantaged families—has complicated and countervailing implications for inequalities in family life.
Turney, Kristin. 2014. “The Consequences of Paternal Incarceration for Maternal Neglect and Harsh Parenting.” Social Forces 92:1607–1636.