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New Study Debunks Common Beliefs of Children of Incarcerated Parents

by Christopher Zoukis

A study released by the Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy, and in conjunction with the National Resource Center on Children and Families of the Incarcerated, debunks commonly cited statistics concerning children with incarcerated parents, calling the statistics "unsupported by the data and potentially stigmatizing[.]"

According to the study, "It has been widely claimed without documentary evidence that children with incarcerated parents [] are six times more likely than other children to become justice-involved, and that seven out of ten [such children] will become justice-involved." The authors' research shows these statistics to be "dramatic" yet grossly exaggerated.

The study examined six source studies from the United States, England, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Sweden using a representative sampling method of evaluation. While "five of the six studies were longitudinal, tracking the sample for periods of time up to 40 years", one of the studies examined used a retrospective design. The study's conclusion was that children of incarcerated parents are three times as likely to be justice-involved than other children, amounting to three out of ten (32.8%) such children.

The authors' primary objectives were to clarify what research does prove concerning children with incarcerated parents and to reduce potential stigmatization incurred by this population through alarmingly high, and incorrect, statistics regarding their failure rates. In effect, the incorrect, sky-high failure rates become a self-fulfilling prophesy. According to the study, such misguided beliefs "exacerbate the stigma," effectively harming the way this vulnerable population views itself and the ways that others view them.

Sources: “Seven Out of Ten? Not Even Close: A Review of Research on the Likelihood of Children with Incarcerated Parents Becoming Justice Involved by Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy,” Central Connecticut State University (March 2015)

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