17 October, 2016
Parentless Children: The Emotional Effects of Incarcerated Parents
Every single year in the United States the incarceration rate increases by drastic numbers, many of these people who are sent to prison are parents. According to studies, 1 in 28 children (3.6 percent) will have a parent that is incarcerated; this number is a very drastic jump from a study years ago that proved that only 1 in 125 children would have parents incarcerated (Uggen and Celrath 600). A large number of them have sentences that extend for long periods of time, others don’t; regardless of the length of time, it is still time spent away from their child (and vice versa). Studies show that many of these parents weren’t absent from their children’s lives, in fact, it was quite the opposite; many of these people were successfully parenting and trying to provide their children with good lives (although this is true for some, this is not to imply that it is/was true for all) (Uggen and Celrath 601). Some would venture to say that the prisoner is getting what they deserve, but what about the child? How is he or she affected? Studies show that there is an extensive amount of emotional, social, and mental challenges that children with incarcerated parents face (Clopton and East 195). Incarceration has long term effects on the child, the parent, and even the caregiver.
One of the long term effects that studies have shown in children with incarcerated parents is socialization problems. Indeed, “Children of incarcerated parents are about twice as likely as their peers to exhibit antisocial behavior and other mental health problems” (Murray, Farrington, Sekol, & Olsen qtd in Poehlmann 79). Because these children lead different lives than those around them, there is an automatic feeling of loneliness. Many children that have parents that are in prison have a hard time relating to their peers around them and, in some cases, this causes them to retreat into themselves (Clopton and East 195). In other instances children lash out behaviorally, or struggle academically, which also causes them to have trouble socializing and relating.
Not only do these children have trouble socializing and relating to fellow students, they also have trouble socializing with their teachers. Many of these children have been told by caregivers not to disclose that their parents are in jail; therefore when they begin to have behavior problems, or academic problems, the teachers think it is the child’s fault (Clopton and East 198). This causes a level of tension and strain on the child. It is equally the caregiver and the educator’s job to have open communication with one another so that the child can get the best help possible and be successful in life.
It is very true that there is a certain level of social problems that these children must overcome in the classroom and with teachers but there is also a level of social stigma that these children must...