Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 19, Issue 4, pp 404–418 | Cite as

The Relation of Exposure to Parental Criminal Activity, Arrest, and Sentencing to Children’s Maladjustment

  • Danielle H. DallaireEmail author
  • Laura C. Wilson
Original Paper


We examined the psychosocial maladjustment of 32 children with an incarcerated parent from the child’s perspective as well as from the perspective of their caregiver. We focused on the relation between the incarcerated parent’s report of children’s exposure to parental criminal activity, arrest, and sentencing and caregivers’ and children’s self-reports of maladjustment. Results indicate that witnessing these events is associated with more behavior problems according to caregivers’ and children’s self-reports. Moreover, incarcerated parents’ reports of children’s exposure to these events predicted caregivers’ and children’s reports of maladjustment over a 6 month period. Our results also suggest that children with incarcerated mothers, in comparison to children with incarcerated fathers, are exposed to more of these events and may be experiencing greater maladjustment. Implications of these findings are discussed within a proactive context and the use of procedures that take children’s reactions to witnessing parental arrest and sentencing into consideration.


Parental incarceration Parental arrest Risk Child maladjustment Jail 



This research was supported by a grant from The College of William & Mary to the first author. We are grateful to all of the families who participated in this research and the Sheriff’s office and jail personnel. This research would not be possible without the hard work and dedication of the following graduate and undergraduate students: Whitley Aamodt, Amma Agyemang, Kelly Carter, Anne Ciccone, Monica Goldblatt, Ashley Hampton, Lauren Jackson, Ashlie Jones, Julienne Palbusa, and Matthew Ward.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Psychology DepartmentThe College of William & MaryWilliamsburgUSA

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