15 Aug 2022


Children of Incarcerated Parents: How to Help Them Cope

Format: APA

Academic level: College

Paper type: Annotated Bibliography

Words: 1260

Pages: 5

Downloads: 0

The number of incarcerated men and women has risen in recent years. Parents are among the men and women being imprisoned on a daily basis. These parents often leave behind their children, who are forced to juggle between homes and families, until they either find one in which they fit in, or their parent is released from jail. Children of such parents are faced with various challenges since they lack parental presence in their lives. These children develop without receiving the needed parental care from their parents, hence subjecting them to different problems that affect their physical and social well-being. Incarcerated parents, on the other hand, tend to lose communication with their children, therefore increasing the difficulty in performing parental duties to these children.

The following articles highlight various challenges being faced by both the children and the parents. The materials are based on different studies conducted using different research methods to prove their application in this field of research.

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Annotated bibliography 

Hindt, L., Davis, L., Schubert, E., Poehlmann-Tynan, J., & Shlafer, R. (2016). Comparing Emotion Recognition Skills among Children with and without Jailed Parents.  Frontiers in Psychology 7 . Doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01095 


Children of incarcerated parents are more exposed to risk factors of maladjustment-a point that increases the likelihood of behavioral problems. Such kids fail in applying emotion recognition skills, causing them to have difficulties in expressing their emotions. The failure of emotion recognition skills often leads to maladjustment. Children of incarcerated parents also demonstrate a negative bias in processing information, whereby they mostly express negative emotions instead of positive ones. The exposure to a negative environment also plays a role in limiting emotion recognition skills, thus exposing this children to negative recognized emotions.

This research incorporated a quantitative method, whereby it used surveys to collect quantitative data. Data from the survey was collected from 128 families whereby 75 children had incarcerated parents, while 53 children had parents that are not jailed. The survey was conducted by producing labels for photos expressing different emotions.


There have been every few studies that have focused on and highlighted the early predictors of maladjustment among children with incarcerated parents. As such, limited knowledge exists to enhance the understanding of intervention and prevention points. Children with incarcerated parents demonstrate and emotion recognition bias whereby the failure to recognize their emotions paces them at risk of maladjustment. Furthermore, the failure to recognize emotions is linked to previous childhood trauma.


The study applies to the field of research whereby researchers use the information provided to identify intervention methods to aid such children in enhancing their emotion recognition skills. Furthermore, clinicians apply the study in identifying targeted prevention and intervention efforts.

Johnson, E., Arditti, J., & McGregor, C. (2018). Risk, Protection, and Adjustment among Youth with Incarcerated and Non-Resident Parents: A Mixed-Methods Study. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 27(6), 1914-1928. doi: 10.1007/s10826-018-1045-0


This article analyses the heterogeneity and competence among children and youth with incarcerated parents. The article emphasizes the risks posed to these children. Incarceration of parents threatens proper development and the well-being of the children that these parents leave behind. The article uses a mixed methods approach which categorizes a sample population of 26 youth with incarcerated parents into four subgroups. These subgroups are further studied to identify the patterns of both individual and family factors across the subgroups.


There are four subgroups in which youth and children with incarcerated parents could be grouped into. These subgroups are dubbed ‘adjusted,’ ‘striving,’ ‘thriving,’ and ‘vulnerable.’ 'Adjusted' and 'striving' youth and children are those that are using coping mechanisms to adapt to their new environment as well as putting to excel in the environment. The growing category represents those that are doing extremely well despite having incarcerated parents. The vulnerable subgroup represents those children who are most affected by their parents’ incarceration such that they are at the highest risk of non-survival. Very many children find themselves on the ‘adjusted’ and ‘striving’ categories, while few are on the ‘thriving’ and ‘vulnerable’ groups. These groups also present variations in the extent of the physical, social and psychosocial challenges.

The study measures the different levels of heterogeneity and competence in the population through the use of thematic and cluster analysis. The results prove that there is a slight difference in adjustment and ability of youth who have lost their parents to incarceration and those that have lost their parents for other reasons.


This study applies to other countries that seek to understand the competence and heterogeneity of children of incarcerated parents. It highlights the factors affecting children and youth that have been separated from their parents for whatever reason, hence its application in child psychology. Moreover, it advances means through which the psychological issues could be changed despite the incarceration of parents.

Block, S., Brown, C., Barretti, L., Walker, E., & Yudt, M. (2014). A Mixed-Method Assessment of a Parenting Program for Incarcerated Fathers. Journal of Correctional Education, 65(1), 50-67.


Parental guidance and presence are essential to the development of a child. Children of incarcerated parents are often deprived of the chance to develop a relationship with their parents and enjoy the benefits that come along with it. This journal article uses a mixed method evaluation to analyze the effectiveness of a program to improve the parenting skills of incarcerated fathers. The research employs 309 participants and 104 members in the control group. The study also makes use of a quasi-experimental design.


Incarcerated fathers are faced with challenges when it comes to employing their parenting skills. Children that grow up without these skills are mostly at risk of developing complications in current and later life. The study measured the changes in the fathers’ confidence, knowledge and phone contact with their children. Upon the implementation of the program, fathers are transformed, and positive changes are witnessed in the areas mentioned above. As a result, their relationship with their children is significantly improved. The results presented in this study identified the areas that require more parental program development to enhance the parenting skills of incarcerated parents.


The study applies to all correctional facilities that seek to improve the relationship between children and their incarcerated parents. Furthermore, it refers to guiding existing programs through various changes to achieve better results.

Brown, E., & Minton, C. (2018). Serving Children of Incarcerated Parents: A Case Study of School Counselors’ Experiences.  Professional School Counseling


This article addresses the roles of school counsellors in meeting the needs of children of incarcerated parents, while integrating them with their professional roles. These counsellors face various barriers that hinder their delivery of services to children of incarcerated parents. Children of incarcerated parents are at a high risk of adverse childhood experiences, which result in physical and mental health problems, as well as behavioral change. The study uses a qualitative study design through the application of case studies and interviews, the case study comprises of 15 participants, who are all school counsellors. Data is collected in the form of interviews.


School counselors often face barriers in integrating their professional roles with serving the needs of children with incarcerated parents. Most counsellors offer services such as counselling, mentoring and programs focused on parent-child relationships. However much emphasis should be given on individual counselling, group counselling and play therapy. Through this methods, counsellors are able to address the social and emotional difficulties faced by these children.


This study is applied to the field of school counselling whereby school counsellors play a huge role in helping children of incarcerated parents to cope with their emotions. School counsellors may also use this study in realizing methods to use that would beat the barriers to efficient service delivery for children of incarcerated parents. The study could also be used in promoting school-wide empathy and acceptance of children of incarcerated parents.


Children of incarcerated parents are faced with various factors that hinder their psychological and emotional development. Having incarcerated parents has caused challenges in emotion recognition skills as well as achieving competence. There are various actors in the lives of children of incarcerated parents, including the parents themselves and school counsellors. Incarcerated fathers achieve parenting skills upon issuance of programs to improve the skills, while school counsellors use their professional roles in meeting the specific needs of the children. The articles outlined above employ quantitative, mixed methods and qualitative design studies, as they also provide other areas in which they may be applied.


Block, S., Brown, C., Barretti, L., Walker, E., & Yudt, M. (2014). A Mixed-Method Assessment of a Parenting Program for Incarcerated Fathers.  Journal of Correctional Education 65 (1), 50-67.

Brown, E., & Minton, C. (2018). Serving Children of Incarcerated Parents: A Case Study of School Counselors’ Experiences. Professional School Counseling.

Johnson, E., Arditti, J., & McGregor, C. (2018). Risk, Protection, and Adjustment among Youth with Incarcerated and Non-Resident Parents: A Mixed-Methods Study.  Journal of Child and Family Studies 27 (6), 1914-1928. Doi: 10.1007/s10826-018-1045-0

Hindt, L., Davis, L., Schubert, E., Poehlmann-Tynan, J., & Shlafer, R. (2016). Comparing Emotion Recognition Skills among Children with and without Jailed Parents. Frontiers in Psychology, 7. Doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01095

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StudyBounty. (2023, September 16). Children of Incarcerated Parents: How to Help Them Cope.


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