Parental incarceration among adolescents receiving mental health services

  • Phillips S
  • Burns B
  • Wagner H
 et al. 
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The Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that approximately 1 in every 50 youth in the U.S. had a parent in State or Federal prison in 1999. Studies of children of in- carcerated parents suggest that these youth are at risk for experiencing emotional and behavioral problems. Using a sample of 258 adolescents receiving routine mental health services, this study explored: (1) differences in demographic char- acteristics, lifetime exposure to risk factors, recent stressful life experiences, and clinical profiles of adolescents with and without a history of parental incarcer- ation; and (2) the effect of parental incarceration relative to other risk factors on levels of emotional and behavioral problems and treatment outcomes. Nearly half (43%) of the youth studied had experienced the incarceration of one or both parents. Youth who experienced parental incarceration had been exposed to signif- icantly more risk factors during their lifetimes including parental substance abuse, extreme poverty, and abuse or neglect. They were more likely than other treated youth to present with attention-deficit/hyperactivity and conduct disorders and less likely to have major depression. Findings provide preliminary evidence that parental incarceration may have a discrete negative effect on certain outcomes of treatment.

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  • S. D. Phillips

  • B. J. Burns

  • H. R. Wagner

  • T. L. Kramer

  • J. M. Robbins

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