Maternal incarceration and children's delinquent involvement: The role of sibling relationships

Publication Year


Journal Article
Researchers have estimated that 63% of incarcerated women have one or more minor children and most report living with their children prior to incarceration (Mumola, 2000). While much of the research on the consequences of maternal incarceration on children supports an association between negative child outcomes and maternal incarceration, not all findings have yielded the same conclusions. Because of the heterogeneous nature of maternal incarceration effects on children, consideration of the specific factors that explain variation in children wellbeing is warranted. Using data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study we consider the role of sibling relationships within the context of maternal incarceration. Consistent with prior research, our findings indicate that maternal incarceration is associated with variation in children's delinquent involvement. Furthermore, findings suggest that the effect of maternal incarceration on juvenile delinquency is a function of sibling relationship quality. We discuss the implications of our findings for research, practitioners, and policymakers, and note the potential utility of directing attention to sibling relationships in programmatic efforts focused on the children of inmates.
Children and Youth Services Review