School Aged Children of Incarcerated Parents: the Effects of Alternative Criminal Sentencing


Psychological folklore and empirical evidence suggest children of incarcerated parents are at risk for a range of adverse outcomes throughout life. While researchers and practitioners have aimed to understand and mitigate these risks, no study to date has examined how alternative sentencing affects child outcomes. The purpose of this study was to examine if maternal alternative criminal sentencing affected children’s behavior and parent–child attachment as reported by children. Children ages 8–14 whose mothers were recently released from an alternative criminal sentencing program were compared with children whose mothers had been recently released from prison. One hundred and two mothers and their children participated in this study. Results revealed statistically significant differences with children of alternatively sentenced mothers performed better on externalizing behavioral problems, total behavioral problems, parental trust, parental alienation, parental communication, and total parent–child attachment.

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Correspondence to Lindsay Fry-Geier.

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This manuscript is based upon the first author’s master’s thesis.

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Fry-Geier, L., Hellman, C.M. School Aged Children of Incarcerated Parents: the Effects of Alternative Criminal Sentencing. Child Ind Res 10, 859–879 (2017).

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  • Parental incarceration/imprisonment
  • Alternative criminal sentencing
  • Maternal sentencing
  • Behavior problems
  • Attachment
  • Children of incarcerated parents