Maternal Incarceration and Children’s Long-Term Outcomes: Timing versus Dosage?

Rosa M. Cho, Brown University

This study examines the differential effects of maternal incarceration by timing and dosage on adolescent children’s high school dropout rate as well as on the rate of admission to a correctional institution. I use data on 9,563 children who are between the ages of 5 and 17 when their mothers entered either jail or prison during 1993 and 2001. Using a sibling pair sample to control for unobserved maternal characteristics, I find that exposure to maternal incarceration during late adolescence is associated with higher high school dropout rates for both sons and daughters than exposure to maternal incarceration during middle childhood. However, results indicate that only daughters are sensitive to varying dosages of maternal incarceration measured by the number of incarcerations in jail and in prison. Frequent maternal incarcerations in jail are associated with better long-term outcomes for girls, while the opposite is true for incarcerations in prison.

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Presented in Session 148: Criminal Justice System Issues for Children and Youth