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American Public Health Association
133rd Annual Meeting & Exposition
December 10-14, 2005
Philadelphia, PA
APHA 2005
3296.0: Monday, December 12, 2005 - 2:30 PM

Abstract #111443

Assessing children’s exposure to parental incarceration: An epidemiological approach

Ernest Drucker, PhD, Department of Epidemiology & Social Medicine, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Montefiore Medical Center, 111 East 210th St., Bronx, NY 10467, 718-920-4766, drucker@aecom.yu.edu and Ricardo Barreras, PhD, Epidemiology and Population Health, Montefiore Medical Center, 111 E 210 St, Bronx, nyc, NY 10467.

Background: Parental incarceration (PI) affects children's behavior and mental health,adversely, as well as increasing risk of violence and future criminality. Yet there is no rigorous epidemiological research on the impact of PI on children, in part because of the difficulties in measuring PI as an exposure.

Method: The Criminal Justice Calendar (CJC) is a data collection instrument that documents periods of PI, permitting correlation with landmark events (e.g. marriage and the birth of children) and the calculation of quantitative measures of individual episodes and children's lifetime exposure to PI. Using the CJC we interviewed 18 formerly incarcerated parents (22% mothers) of 49 children ages 1-18 measuring timing, frequency, and duration of child-parent separation resulting from PI.

Results: The mean age of these children at first PI was 5.7 years, and 9 (20%) were born while the parent was in prison. Forty three (88%) of these children had at least one separation due to PI, 35% experienced a second, and 5% a third separation. The mean length of total separation was 7.4 years (36% of these children's lives) and 48% experienced 10 or more years of separation due to PI.

Conclusions: This sample of children of prisoners are heavily impacted by PI, including early and multiple exposures and long periods of separation. It is crucial that we recognize the scale, frequency, and severity of PI , its role in future risk for these children, and the need to intervene to reduce its impact on children.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the session, participants will be able to