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Beyond Absenteeism: Father Incarceration and its Effects on Children’s Development

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  • Amanda Geller
  • Carey E. Cooper
  • Irwin Garfinkel
  • Ofira Schwartz-Soicher
  • Ronald B. Mincy
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    Abstract

    High rates of incarceration among American men, coupled with high rates of fatherhood among men in prison, have motivated recent research on the effects of parental imprisonment on children’s development. We contribute to this literature using data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study to examine the effects of paternal incarceration on developmental and school readiness outcomes for approximately 3,000 urban children. We estimate cross-sectional and longitudinal regression models that control not only for fathers’ basic demographic characteristics and a rich set of potential confounders, but also for several measures of pre-incarceration child development, and family fixed effects. We find that paternal incarceration is positively associated with children’s externalizing problems at age five. Results are mixed with respect to attention problems, and we find some evidence that children of incarcerated fathers experience less anxiety than their peers. The observed effects of incarceration on child behavioral problems are significantly stronger than the effects of other forms of father absence, suggesting that children with incarcerated fathers may require specialized support from caretakers, teachers, and social service providers.

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    File URL: http://crcw.princeton.edu/workingpapers/WP09-20-FF.pdf
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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Research on Child Wellbeing. in its series Working Papers with number 1194.

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    Date of creation: Nov 2009
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    Handle: RePEc:pri:crcwel:wp09-20-ff

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    Related research

    Keywords: Fragile families; childbearing; nonmarital childbearing; fartherhood; fathers; incarceration;

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    References

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    1. Kaushal, N., 2007. "Do food stamps cause obesity?: Evidence from immigrant experience," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(5), pages 968-991, September.
    2. Shelly Lundberg & Sara McLanahan & Elaina Rose, 2007. "Child gender and father involvement in fragile families," Demography, Springer, vol. 44(1), pages 79-92, February.
    3. Robert C. Whitaker & Sean M. Orzol & Robert S. Kahn, 2006. "Maternal Mental Health, Substance Use, and Domestic Violence in the Year After Delivery and Subsequent Behavior Problems in Children at Age 3 Years," Mathematica Policy Research Reports 4988, Mathematica Policy Research.
    4. Amanda Geller & Irwin Garfinkel & Carey E. Cooper & Ronald B. Mincy, 2009. "Parental Incarceration and Child Well-Being: Implications for Urban Families," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 90(5), pages 1186-1202.
    5. Laura Tach & Ronald Mincy & Kathryn Edin, 2010. "Parenting as A “package deal”: Relationships, fertility, and nonresident father involvement among unmarried parents," Demography, Springer, vol. 47(1), pages 181-204, February.
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