The chances of seeing a parent go to prison have never been greater, especially for poor blacks. The New York Times reports that new research is documenting the long-term harm to the children they leave behind. Recent studies say that having an incarcerated parent doubles the chance that a child will be at least temporarily homeless and measurably increases the likelihood of physically aggressive behavior, social isolation, depression and problems in school.
“Parental imprisonment has emerged as a novel, and distinctly American, childhood risk that is concentrated among black children and children of low-education parents,” said Christopher Wildeman, a sociologist at the University of Michigan who is studying what some now call the “incarceration generation.” More than 1.5 million U.S. children have a parent, usually their father, in prison. Many more are affected over the course of childhood, especially if they are black, new studies show.