Children of prisoners - maintaining family ties

Literature review - Stigma

Parental imprisonment might cause children to experience stigma, bullying and teasing, which might increase their mental health problems or antisocial behaviour (7, 8, 14, 19, 59). In interviews with 127 caregivers of children with imprisoned fathers, Boswell and Wedge found that some children “got verbal abuse from other children... . The pressure was so great that the children didn’t want to go to school” (child's carer, quoted in 14, p. 67). It is also possible that there is official bias against children of prisoners, making them more likely than their peers to be prosecuted or convicted for their crimes.

There have been no systematic studies of whether social stigma explains the relationship between parental imprisonment and adverse outcomes for children. However, some evidence regarding official bias comes from the Cambridge Study. If children of prisoners are more likely to be prosecuted or convicted than their peers because of official bias, there should be stronger effects of parental imprisonment on official measures of offending (convictions) than on self-report measures of offending (which are not influenced by police or court bias). However, parental imprisonment had similar effects on convictions and self-reported offending behaviour in the Cambridge Study (31), suggesting that official bias did not account for the high rate of offending among children of prisoners.