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Parental Arrest and Child Behavior: Differential Role of Executive Functioning among Racial Subgroups


This study examines relations among parental arrest, child executive functioning (EF), and problem behaviors among youth who participated in the baseline assessment of the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study (N = 11,875). Participants ranged in age from 9 to 10 (M = 9.91) years, and approximately half were girls (47.9%). Results of regression analyses that controlled for sociodemographic risk factors indicated that children who experienced parental arrest exhibited more internalizing and externalizing behaviors than comparison youth, particularly when their mother vs. father had been arrested. Results of analyses that were disaggregated by child race further revealed that EF appeared to play a differential role among White (n = 5851) and Black (n = 1451) children. Among White children, EF was associated with fewer internalizing and externalizing behaviors regardless of whether or not a parent had been arrested. Among Black children, low levels of EF were associated with more internalizing behaviors in the context of parental arrest vs. no arrest, but high levels of EF did not appear to confer benefits. EF was not significantly related to externalizing behaviors among Black children. Taken together, results suggest that parental arrests have adverse implications for child well-being that warrant continued theoretical and empirical attention. Findings also suggest that, although EF may be broadly beneficial among White children, there appear to be constraints on the extent to which high EF benefits Black children, a finding that is discussed through the lens of racial stratification and that has important implications for future theory, research, and practice.


  • Parental arrests were associated with increased risk for problem behaviors among 9–10-year-old children.

  • Executive functioning was broadly beneficial among White children, whereas effects were more limited among Black children.

  • Racial stratification appears to affect the benefits of executive function for child behavior.

  • Results have implications for work with youth who have experienced parental arrests and for research on executive functioning.

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This work has benefited greatly from a conversation about race and racial stratification with Dr. Deadric Williams as well as from comments and suggestions provided by anonymous reviewers and our Action Editor, Dr. Anne Farrell.


Data used in the preparation of this article were obtained from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study (, held in the NIMH Data Archive (NDA). This is a multisite, longitudinal study designed to recruit more than 10,000 children aged 9–10 and follow them over 10 years into early adulthood. The ABCD study is supported by the National Institutes of Health and additional federal partners under award numbers U01DA041022, U01DA041028, U01DA041048, U01DA041089, U01DA041106, U01DA041117, U01DA041120, U01DA041134, U01DA041148, U01DA041156, U01DA041174, U24DA041123, U24DA041147, U01DA041093, and U01DA041025. A full list of supporters is available at A listing of participating sites and a complete listing of the study investigators can be found at ABCD consortium investigators designed and implemented the study and/or provided data but did not necessarily participate in analysis or writing of this report. This manuscript reflects the views of the authors and may not reflect the opinions or views of the NIH or ABCD consortium investigators. The ABCD data repository grows and changes over time. The ABCD data used in this report came from Annual Curated Release 2.0 [].

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Authors and Affiliations



E.I.J. co-conceptualized the paper and drafted the manuscript. B.P. co-conceptualized the paper and analyzed the data. J.P.-T. contributed to the writing and editing of the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Elizabeth I. Johnson.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

Ethics Approval

This manuscript is based on de-identified data from the ABCD study that have been deposited in the National Institute of Mental Health Data Archive (NDA) and made available to the authors via Data Use Certification (DUC) agreements. Work with the data has been certified by the lead author’s Institutional Review Board as meeting the NIH criteria for Exemption 4: “study of data if publicly available or recorded such that subjects cannot be identified.” All procedures were performed in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Johnson, E.I., Planalp, E.M. & Poehlmann-Tynan, J. Parental Arrest and Child Behavior: Differential Role of Executive Functioning among Racial Subgroups. J Child Fam Stud 31, 1933–1946 (2022).

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  • Parental arrest
  • Executive functioning
  • Externalizing problems
  • Internalizing problems
  • Racial stratification