Children of Female Offenders: What Happens When Mom Goes to Prison

Jane A. Siegel, Rutgers University

Children of prisoners have been characterized as the "most at-risk children" in America today and there is widespread assumption that most such children will themselves be incarcerated later in life. While research does show that offending is concentrated in some families, little is known about the role that incarceration of criminal parents plays as distinct from the parent's criminal behavior. Furthermore, what is known about the children is based almost entirley on adult reports. This paper presents preliminary results of a study of children between the ages of 8 and 17 whose mothers are either on probation or in prison. Semi-structured interviews conducted in the children's homes with the mothers and the children both before and after the mother's sentencing permit an examination of the differences in the impact of these two forms of sanction on the children.

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Updated 05/20/2006