The focus of this study concerns the intergenerational consequences of the era of mass incarceration and its role in promoting an educational demobilization of primarily marginalized groups. Using the Howard B. Kaplan Multigenerational and Longitudinal data set, this article links incarceration in the first generation to educational experiences of the second generation at two stages in the life course: adolescence (N = 1303) and emerging adulthood (N = 1621). Intergenerational theories of strain and stigma are argued to be mechanisms in the transmission of reduced educational success and attainment among the second generation. The findings reveal that children of once incarcerated parents are significantly more likely to report that they are experiencing unhappiness in school and have significantly lower levels of educational success than their counterparts not experiencing parental incarceration. Due to these outcomes, I argue that the reproduction of disadvantage produced by the intergenerational effects of parental incarceration will linger in society even with a reduction of incarcerated populations. The need for understanding the intergenerational implications of mass incarceration among disadvantaged populations is discussed.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Agnew, R. (1992). Foundation for a general strain theory of crime and delinquency. Criminology, 30(1), 47–88.
Arum, R., & Beattie, I. R. (1999). High school experience and the risk of adult incarceration. Criminology, 37(3), 515–540.
Beichner, D., & Rabe-Hemp, C. (2014). “I don’t want to go back to that town:” Incarcerated mothers and their return home to rural communities. Critical Criminology, 22(4), 527–543.
Bos, H. M., & Van Balen, F. (2008). Children in planned lesbian families: Stigmatisation, psychological adjustment and protective factors. Culture, Health & Sexuality, 10(3), 221–236.
Bozick, R., & DeLuca, S. (2005). Better late than never? Delayed enrollment in the high school to college transition. Social Forces, 84(1), 531–554.
Braithwaite, J. (1989). Crime, shame and reintegration. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Braman, D. (2004). Doing time on the outside: Incarceration and family life in urban America. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Carson, E. A. (2018). Prisoners in 2016 (NCJ 251149). Retrieved from Bureau of Justice Statistics. http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/p16.pdf. Accessed November 11, 2018.
Cho, R. (2010). Maternal incarceration and children’s adolescent outcomes: Timing and dosage. Social Service Review, 84(2), 257–282.
City of Houston Planning and Development Department. (2009). Houston’s comparison with major U.S. cities. http://www.houstontx.gov/planning/Publications/planrpt/How_fulldoc.pdf. Accessed May 26, 2015.
Clear, T. R. (2008). The effects of high imprisonment rates on communities. Crime and Justice, 37(1), 97–132.
deVuono-powell, S., Schweidler, C., Walters, A., & Zohrabi, A. (2015). Who pays? The true costs of incarceration on families. Oakland, CA: Ella Baker Center.
Foster, H., & Hagan, J. (2007). Incarceration and intergenerational social exclusion. Social Problems, 54(4), 399–433.
Foster, H., & Hagan, J. (2009). The mass incarceration of parents in America: Issues of race/ethnicity, collateral damage to children, and prisoner reentry. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 623(1), 179–194.
Fredericksen, A., & Omli, D. (2016). Jobs after jail: Ending the prison to poverty pipeline, alliance for a just society. Washington: Seattle.
Gabel, S. (1992). Behavioral problems in sons of incarcerated or otherwise absent fathers: The issue of separation. Family Process, 31(3), 303–314.
Garland, D. (Ed.). (2001). Mass imprisonment: Social causes and consequences. Kern County, CA: Sage.
Geller, A. (2013). Paternal incarceration and father–child contact in fragile families. Journal of Marriage and Family, 75(5), 1288–1303.
Gershon, T. D., Tschann, J. M., & Jemerin, J. M. (1999). Stigmatization, self-esteem, and coping among the adolescent children of lesbian mothers. Journal of Adolescent Health, 24(6), 437–445.
Glaze, L., & Maruschak, M. (2008). Parents in prison and their minor children. Washington DC: US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs.
Goffman, E. (1963). Stigma: Notes on a spoiled identity. San Diego: Jenkins, JH & Carpenter.
Guo, S. (2005). Analyzing grouped data with hierarchical linear modeling. Children and Youth Services Review, 27(6), 637–652.
Hagan, J., & Foster, H. (2012). Intergenerational educational effects of mass imprisonment in America. Sociology of Education, 85(3), 259–286.
Haskins, A. R. (2014). Unitended consequences: Effects of paternal incarceration on child school readiness and later special education placement. Sociological Science, 1(1), 141–157.
Johnson, E. I., & Waldfogel, J. (2002). Parental incarceration: Recent trends and implications for child welfare. Social Service Review, 76(3), 460–479.
Kaeble, D., & Cowhig, M. (2018). Correctional populations in the United States, 2016 (NCJ 251211). Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, Office of justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Kaplan, H. B., Martin, S. S., & Robbins, C. (1982). Application of a general theory of deviant behavior: Self-derogation and adolescent drug use. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 23(4), 274–294.
Kidd, S. A. (2007). Youth homelessness and social stigma. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 36(3), 291–299.
Kruttschnitt, C. (2010). The paradox of women’s imprisonment. Daedalus, 139(3), 32–42.
Kruttschnitt, C., & Gartner, R. (2005). Marking time in the Golden State: Women’s imprisonment in California. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Lemert, E. M. (1972). Human Deviance, Social Problems, and Social Control (2nd ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ.
Lin, N., Vaughn, J. C., & Ensel, W. M. (1981). Social resources and occupational status attainment. Social Forces, 59(4), 1163–1181.
Lyons, C. J., & Pettit, B. (2011). Compounded disadvantage: Race, incarceration, and wage growth. Social Problems, 58(2), 257–280.
Mauer, M. (2006). Race to incarcerate. New York: The New Press.
Murray, J. (2007). The cycle of punishment social exclusion of prisoners and their children. Criminology and Criminal Justice, 7(1), 55–81.
Murray, J., & Farrington, D. P. (2008). The effects of parental imprisonment on children. Crime and Justice, 46(12), 133–206.
Niu, S., & Tienda, M. (2013). Delayed enrollment and college plans: Is there a postponement penalty? The Journal of Higher Education, 84(1), 1.
Pager, D. (2003). The mark of a criminal record. American Journal of Sociology, 108(5), 937–975.
Pager, D. (2008). Marked: Race, crime, and finding work in an era of mass incarceration. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Peugh, J. L. (2010). A practical guide to multilevel modeling. Journal of school psychology, 48(1), 85–112
Phillips, S. D., & Gates, T. (2011). A conceptual framework for understanding the stigmatization of children of incarcerated parents. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 20(3), 286–294.
Rodriguez, C. E. (2000). Changing race: Latinos, the census, and the history of ethnicity in the United States. New York: NYU Press.
Roettger, M. E., & Swisher, R. R. (2011). Associations of fathers’ history of incarceration with sons’ delinquency and arrest among black, white, and Hispanic males in the United States. Criminology, 49(4), 1109–1147.
Scambler, G., & Hopkins, A. (1986). Being epileptic: Coming to terms with stigma. Sociology of Health & Illness, 8(1), 26–43.
Schirmer, S., Nellis, A., & Mauer, M. (2009). Incarcerated parents and their children: Trends 1991–2007. Washington: Sentencing Project.
Schnittker, J., & John, A. (2007). Enduring stigma: The long-term effects of incarceration on health. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 48(2), 115–130.
Sharp, S. F., & Marcus-Mendoza, S. T. (2001). It’s a family affair: Incarcerated women and their families. Women & Criminal Justice, 12(4), 21–49.
Siennick, S. E. (2014). Parental incarceration and intergenerational transfers to young adults. Journal of Family Issues, 37(10), 1433–1457. https://doi.org/10.1177/0192513X14550366.
Tasca, M., Rodriguez, N., & Zatz, M. S. (2011). Family and residential instability in the context of paternal and maternal incarceration. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 38(3), 231–247.
The Sentencing Project. (2015). Factsheet: Incarcerated women and girls. https://www.sentencingproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Incarcerated-Women-and-Girls.pdf. Accessed November 11, 2018
Trice, A. D., & Brewster, J. (2004). The effects of maternal incarceration on adolescent children. Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology, 19(1), 27–35.
Turney, K., & Haskins, A. R. (2014). Falling behind? Children’s early grade retention after paternal incarceration. Sociology of Education, 87(4), 241–258.
Vallas, R., Boteach, M., West, R., & Odum, J. (2015). Removing barriers to opportunity for parents with criminal records and their children: A two-generation approach. Washington, DC: Center for American Progress.
Wakefield, S., & Uggen, C. (2010). Incarceration and stratification. Annual Review of Sociology, 36, 387–406.
Wakefiled, S., & Wildeman, C. (2013). Children of the prison boom: Mass incarceration and the future of American inequality. New York: Oxford University Press.
Western, B. (2006). Punishment and inequality in America. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
Western, B., & Beckett, K. (1999). How unregualted is the US labor market? The penal system as a labor market institution. American Journal of Sociology, 104(4), 1030–1060.
Western, B., & Pettit, B. (2010). Collateral costs: Incarceration’s effect on economic mobility. Washington, DC: The Pew Charitable Trusts.
Western, B., & Wildeman, C. (2008). Punishment, inequality, and the future of mass incarceration. University of Kansas Law Review, 57(4), 851.
Wildeman, C. (2009). Parental imprisonment, the prison boom, and the concentration of childhood disadvantage. Demography, 46(2), 265–280.
Wildeman, C. (2014). Parental incarceration, child homelessness, and the invisible consequences of mass imprisonment. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 651(1), 74–96.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Shaw, M. The Reproduction of Social Disadvantage Through Educational Demobilization: A Critical Analysis of Parental Incarceration. Crit Crim 27, 275–290 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10612-018-09427-3