Differential Effects of Type of Children’s Contact with Their Jailed Mothers and Children’s Behavior Problems
The current study investigated children’s internalizing and externalizing behavior in relation to the specific type of contact (e.g., phone, letter, physical) and frequency of contact they have with their mother incarcerated at a local jail. Participants included 114 currently incarcerated mothers (64.1 % African American), their 147 children (53.6 % boys, M age: 9.8 years, range: 6–12 years, 61.7 % African American), and the 118 caregivers (74.8 % female, 61.9 % grandparents, 62.2 % African American) of the children. Mothers, children, and caregivers each provided information about children’s internalizing and externalizing behavior problems. Mothers and caregivers provided information about frequency of contact, including letter writing, phone calls and visitation with the target child. Findings from structural equation modeling indicate that face-to-face contact is a distinct form of contact, distinguishable from letter-writing and phone calls. Furthermore, our analyses show that more frequent face-to-face barrier visitation was associated with more symptoms of internalizing behavior, whereas more phone calls and letters were associated with fewer symptoms of internalizing behavior. There were no associations with externalizing behavior. These findings have implications for the many children impacted by maternal incarceration and can inform the development of best practices for mother-child contact while mothers are incarcerated in jail settings.
KeywordsMaternal Incarceration Mother-child contact Jail Internalizing behavior
This research was funded by grant # 5R21HD060104-02 to the College of William & Mary and the first two authors by the National Institutes of Health. The authors would also like to thank the many students and collaborators who made this research possible, including Caroline Cumings, Johanna Folk, Jennifer Poon, Adrian Bravo and Jasmine Hedge.
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