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Children of incarcerated parents: Insights to addressing a growing public health concern in Australia


  • Dawson, A.
  • Jackson, D.
  • Nyamathi, A.


In Australia, the children of incarcerated parents are a growing and vulnerable population at risk for life adversity and social inequity. There is little understanding of these children's experiences, perceived risks, reported outcomes and needs. There is also a lack of knowledge regarding evidence-based interventions that can address the multiple risk factors to which these children may be exposed. The aim of this study was to provide insight into the multiple perspectives of children with incarcerated parents, their carers, parents and service providers so that social and health programs may be tailored to best serve their needs. We undertook an integrative literature review of qualitative research studies using a narrative synthesis methodology to explore the effect of parental incarceration upon the social and health outcomes of children and perceptions of interventions designed to support them. Findings revealed that children of incarcerated parents grieved their parent's absence which they reported had a profound effect on their behavior and resulted in exposure to discrimination, violence and abuse. However, resiliency was manifested by a number of coping strategies that could be harnessed to better support the children and young adults of incarcerated parents. Rigorous and innovative intervention studies are required to better inform comprehensive evidence-based policy and practice.

Suggested Citation

  • Dawson, A. & Jackson, D. & Nyamathi, A., 2012. "Children of incarcerated parents: Insights to addressing a growing public health concern in Australia," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 34(12), pages 2433-2441.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:cysrev:v:34:y:2012:i:12:p:2433-2441
    DOI: 10.1016/j.childyouth.2012.09.003

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jeffrey R. Kling, 2006. "Incarceration Length, Employment, and Earnings," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(3), pages 863-876, June.
    2. 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.
    3. Nesmith, Ande & Ruhland, Ebony, 2008. "Children of incarcerated parents: Challenges and resiliency, in their own words," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(10), pages 1119-1130, October.
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