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28-09-2018 | Original Paper | Uitgave 2/2019

Journal of Child and Family Studies 2/2019

Jailed Parents and their Young Children: Residential Instability, Homelessness, and Behavior Problems

Journal of Child and Family Studies > Uitgave 2/2019
Luke Muentner, Nicole Holder, Cynthia Burnson, Hilary Runion, Lindsay Weymouth, Julie Poehlmann-Tynan


This study examined family disruption in the form of jailed parents’ housing instability in the year leading up to their most recent incarceration, including periods of homelessness with and without their children, and links between parental housing instability and children’s behavior problems. Using the Family Stress Proximal Process Model to understand the links between stressors related to family disruption and child outcomes, the study analyzed data from interviews and surveys with 165 jailed fathers and mothers with young children (age 2–6 years) regarding jailed parents’ reports of housing instability during the 12 months prior to their incarceration and child behavior problems. Analyses showed that housing instability, homelessness, and recidivism in jailed parents were relatively common, with a significant proportion of the disruptions occurring with young children, although many disruptions involved parental absence from children. Results indicated that the more months that parents lived with their children prior to incarceration in jail during the past year, the less housing instability the parents experienced. Additionally, multiple regression analyses revealed that more housing instability experienced by parents in the year leading up to their incarceration in jail were associated with elevations in children’s internalizing and externalizing behavior problems. These results have implications for future research that explores family disruption as a mechanism in understanding recidivism and homelessness among adults and risk for child behavior problems in families affected by parental incarceration.

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