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Children who live in the context of maternal incarceration (MI) are exposed to both general environmental risk and incarceration-specific risk increasing the probability of their developing externalizing and internalizing behaviors problems. Little research has examined the socio-emotional mechanisms that account for the psychological effects of MI. This research examined children’s anger and sadness regulation as mediators between environmental and incarceration-specific risk and psychological functioning. Participants were 117 children (60% Black; 52% boys; M age = 9.85 years, SD = 1.65 years), their incarcerated mother, and current caregiver. All informants completed questionnaires assessing children’s anger and sadness regulation as well as externalizing and internalizing behaviors. Mothers and caregivers provided information concerning children’s exposure to environmental risk and all three reporters provided information on incarceration-specific risk experiences (ISRE). Structural equation modeling was used to test indirect effects of risk variables (ISRE, environmental) on psychological functioning (externalizing, internalizing behaviors) via emotion regulation (anger, sadness). Gender, age, and race were covariates. The analyses revealed significant indirect effects of incarceration-specific risk on both externalizing and internalizing behavior problems via anger regulation but not via sadness regulation. The findings highlight the centrality of emotion regulation as a mechanism that helps explain the negative psychological outcomes experienced by children exposed to ISRE with implications for preventive interventions.
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- Maternal Incarceration, Children’s Psychological Adjustment, and the Mediating Role of Emotion Regulation
Janice L. Zeman
Danielle H. Dallaire
Johanna B. Folk
Todd M. Thrash
- Springer US