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

  • Amanda Geller
  • Carey E. Cooper
  • Irwin Garfinkel
  • Ofira Schwartz-Soicher
  • Ronald B. Mincy
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    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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    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
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:pri:crcwel:wp09-20-ff
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    Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

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    1. 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.
    2. repec:mpr:mprres:4988 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Neeraj Kaushal, 2007. "Do Food Stamps Cause Obesity? Evidence from Immigrant Experience," NBER Working Papers 12849, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    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. Shelly Lundberg & Sara McLanahan & Elaina Rose, 2007. "Child gender and father involvement in fragile families," Demography, Springer, vol. 44(1), pages 79-92, February.
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