Children of Offenders in Canada: Scale of the Problem and Potential Interventions

Lucia Benaquisto, McGill University

There is little information about the number of children of offenders in Canada and their relationship with their parents prior to and during parental incarceration. Studies focusing on the direct experiences of children of offenders are also scant. What is known is that children of offenders have a higher likelihood of engaging in delinquent behavior. Steps toward prevention and intervention are difficult to take without a better understanding of the scale of the problem and of the experiences and difficulties the children face. This paper provides various estimates of the number of children of incarcerated offenders in Canada, including the rates of numbers of children broken down by gender and Aboriginal status. It also examines data concerning parental offender/child relationships prior to and during their incarceration. The findings suggest the need for greater attention to the impact of the loss of paternal offenders on children and their families and to disruption of family continuity experienced by children of Aboriginal offenders. It concludes with a series of recommendations for research and community-based interventions aimed at children of offenders in an attempt to impact the risk factors associated with delinquency and criminal behavior at both the individual and family levels (intergenerational criminality).

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Updated 05/20/2006