Those They Leave Behind: Paternal Incarceration and Maternal Instrumental Support

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As the American imprisonment rate has risen, researchers have become increasingly concerned about the implications of mass imprisonment for family life. The authors extend this research by examining how paternal incarceration is linked to perceived instrumental support among the mothers of inmates' children. Results from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (N = 4,132) suggest that recent, but not current, paternal incarceration is independently associated with less maternal perceived instrumental support and that this association persists after adjusting for a rich set of control variables, including prior perceived instrumental support. For families of recently incarcerated men, incarceration may be a double strike, simultaneously increasing the need for instrumental support while decreasing its availability when incarcerated fathers return to the community.

Turney, Kristin, Jason Schnittker, and Christopher Wildeman. 2012. “Those They Leave Behind: Paternal Incarceration and Maternal Instrumental Support.” Journal of Marriage and Family 74:1149–1165.