Children of prisoners - maintaining family ties

Literature review - Strained parenting

Children’s caregivers often experience considerable distress during parental imprisonment (see 26 for a review) and children often have unstable care arrangements after parental imprisonment (39). Therefore, parental imprisonment might decrease the quality of parental care and supervision children receive, and this might cause their behaviour problems (58).

In the Cambridge Study, boys separated because of parental imprisonment were more likely than those without imprisoned parents to be poorly supervised, and to have fathers with cruel, passive or neglecting attitudes, who used harsh or erratic discipline, when the boys were aged ten (31). These parenting variables were also independent predictors of boys’ delinquent development in the Cambridge Study (27). In two other large-scale studies (32, 39)  parental imprisonment was also associated with poor and sometimes abusive parenting of children. However, none of these studies established that parental imprisonment caused an increase in parenting risks over pre-existing levels. Hence, although strained parenting is a plausible link between parental imprisonment and adverse child outcomes, strong tests of this hypothesis are lacking.