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21-09-2019 | Original Paper

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

Journal of Child and Family Studies
Jessica G. Finkeldey, Monica A. Longmore, Peggy C. Giordano, Wendy D. Manning
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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.


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.


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).


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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