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Identifying as a Troublemaker/Partier: The Influence of Parental Incarceration and Emotional Independence

Abstract

Objectives

Researchers have found that experiencing parental incarceration has long-term consequences for children, such as involvement in crime. However, few studies have examined how parental incarceration influences identity endorsement. Given that self-identities influence behavior, including criminal activity, understanding precursors of self-identities is important. In the current paper, we examined the association between parental incarceration and young adult children’s deviant self-identities. Furthermore, we explored how this association varied by emotional independence, or freedom from the excessive need for parental approval.

Methods

We analyzed data from the Toledo Adolescent Relationships Study (TARS) (n = 965), a sample of men and women interviewed five times over a period of ten years (2001, 2002, 2004, 2006, and 2011), and publically available official incarceration records.

Results

Parental incarceration was only positively associated with identifying as a troublemaker/partier during young adulthood among those with low emotional independence (i.e., for those with the need for parental approval) (p < 0.05). That is, parental incarceration was inconsequential for young adults’ identifying as troublemakers/partiers among those with high levels of emotional independence (i.e., for those with freedom from the need for parental approval).

Conclusions

These findings suggest that the development of high emotional independence, or values, beliefs, and identities in contrast to and separate from an incarcerated parent, may attenuate the intergenerational transmission of antisocial identities and behavior.

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Fig. 1

Data Availability

Data are available at the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (https://www.icpsr.umich.edu/icpsrweb/ICPSR/).

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Acknowledgements

This research received support from The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (HD036223 and HD044206), the Department of Health and Human Services (5APRPA006009), the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U. S. Department of Justice (Award Nos. 2009-IJ-CX-0503 and 2010-MU-MU-0031), and in part by the Center for Family and Demographic Research, Bowling Green State University, which has core funding from The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (R24HD050959). The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication/program/exhibition are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official views of the Department of Justice or National Institutes of Health.

Author Contributions

J.G.F.: conceived of the study and its design, assisted in collecting the TARS official incarceration records data, conducted the statistical analyses, and wrote the manuscript. M.A.L., P.C.G. and W.D.M.: collaborated in the finalization of the analyses and manuscript and are principal investigators of the TARS, which produced the data used for the current investigation. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Jessica G. Finkeldey.

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Finkeldey, J.G., Longmore, M.A., Giordano, P.C. et al. Identifying as a Troublemaker/Partier: The Influence of Parental Incarceration and Emotional Independence. J Child Fam Stud 29, 802–816 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-019-01561-y

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