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01-11-2012 | Empirical Research | Uitgave 11/2012

Journal of Youth and Adolescence 11/2012

Incarceration in the Household: Academic Outcomes of Adolescents with an Incarcerated Household Member

Journal of Youth and Adolescence > Uitgave 11/2012
Emily Bever Nichols, Ann Booker Loper


The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, yet there is relatively little information on how the removal of these adults from households impacts the youth who are left behind. This study used a child-centered lens to examine the impact of incarceration on the school outcomes of youth who resided with a family member or family associate who was incarcerated prior to the youth’s 18th birthday. We used data from 11 waves of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth: Child and Young Adult (n = 3,338, 53 % female). Initial analyses indicated that youth who experienced a household members’ incarceration evidenced more socioeconomic challenges, more frequent home adversities, and lower cognitive skills relative to youth who did not experience a household members’ incarceration. Results also revealed that youth who had experienced a household member’s incarceration were more likely to report extended absence from school and were less likely to graduate from high school relative to those youth who did not experience a household members’ incarceration. Counter to our hypotheses, results revealed the incarceration of an extended family member being in the household was the only relation significantly associated with worse school outcomes. Plausibly, families who allow non-immediate criminally involved individuals to reside in the household are experiencing a more pervasive chaotic home environment than those with a parent or sibling incarcerated. Our study suggests that efforts to address the needs of children with incarcerated parents need to be widened to those who experience the loss of any household member due to incarceration.

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