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APHA Scientific Session and Event Listing

Depressive symptoms and behavior problems in low-income, urban children of incarcerated fathers

Danielle P. Appugliese, MPH1, MaryAnn B. Wilbur, BS2, Jodi E. Marani, MEd2, and Deborah A. Frank, MD2. (1) Data Coordinating Center, Boston University School of Public Health, 715 Albany Street, 580, Boston, MA 02118, 617-638-5022, dpa@bu.edu, (2) Department of Pediatrics, Boston Medical Center, 725 Massachusetts Avenue, Mezzanine floor, SW, Boston, MA 02118

Unprecedented numbers of children in the U.S. have an incarcerated parent. Limited information exists in medical literature on psychological or emotional effects of parental incarceration on children. The objective of this analysis is to evaluate whether children of incarcerated fathers report or exhibit behavioral symptoms, compared to equally disadvantaged peers who do not have an incarcerated father. The sample consisted of 102 children (50% male, 89% African-American) from urban, low-income homes in an ongoing, prospective study on prenatal cocaine exposure. Between ages 6-11 years, 31 (30%) of the children had a father in jail and 71 (70%) of the children did not. At age 11, these children were administered the Child Depression Inventory (CDI). Caregivers for each child completed the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL). For 90 (88%) of the children, the child's teacher completed the Teacher Report Form (TRF). Using multivariate linear regression, potential fixed covariates (prenatal marijuana, alcohol, and tobacco exposure; and mother's perception at birth of father's drug and/or alcohol problem) and time dependent covariates (caregiver type, caregiver's distress, and child's violence exposure) were tested in base models (including child's age, gender and prenatal cocaine exposure) and retained in the final model if significant (p<.05). After controlling for age, gender, prenatal cocaine and child violence exposure, children of incarcerated fathers reported more depressive symptoms (additionally controlling for prenatal alcohol, p=0.02) and their teachers noted more externalizing behaviors (additionally controlling for prenatal marijuana, p=0.03). Interventions targeted to ameliorate the distress of children with incarcerated fathers should be considered.

Learning Objectives:

Keywords: Incarceration, Child/Adolescent Mental Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Not Answered

Improving Pregnancy Outcomes

The 134th Annual Meeting & Exposition (November 4-8, 2006) of APHA