Of the 6.5 million adults who were under some form of correctional supervision in 2000, 3.6 million were parents, thereby affecting 7.1 million minor children. Nationally, approximately 85% of all prisoners are male. Contrary to stereotypes, many of the fathers have significant connections to their children: prior to arrest 44% of incarcerated fathers lived with their children and 65% of the others continued at least monthly contact while in prison. Note however, that among incarcerated fathers >60% reported using drugs in the month before their offense;25% reported a history of alcohol dependence;14% reported mental illness and 70% did not have a high school diploma. Yet, despite evidence that parental involvement with the Criminal Justice System (CJS) is related to children's elevated risk for substance use, psychopathology, and future incarceration, no rigorous studies of a representative sample of such children have been conducted. A better understanding of the specific impact of paternal incarceration, from a developmental perspective, could be expected to provide insight into ways of tempering or averting many psychosocial adverse outcomes in the youth. The main objective of this investigation is to understand the impact, over time, of paternal involvement with the CJS on their children's substance use, psychopathology, and development of risk behaviors leading to involvement with the Juvenile Justice/CJS. This proposal aims to overcome methodological limitations of previous investigations and will provide generalizable findings relevant to developing public policy for improving the lives of affected children, including reducing their risk for substance use and incarceration. Our framework acknowledges that paternal involvement with the CJS occurs in a complex environment, where risk factors cluster, leading to a number of both direct and indirect sequelae. We will recruit a sample of children (ages 10-14) following the arrest of their fathers. The sample will be representative of CJS fathers from a disadvantaged community (the South Bronx, NYC), who have close contact with their child(ren). They will be recruited through collaboration with a publicly assigned legal defense team, the Bronx Defenders. An age- gender matched comparison group of children whose fathers had never been incarcerated will be recruited in the same residential area. The study includes collaboration with agencies whose involvement make this inherently difficult study possible: including the NYC DOE, NYC DOH-MH, NYC ACS, as well as collaborators and advocacy groups, some participating on the Study's Advisory Board.

Public Health Relevance

From a public health perspective, policy driven decisions regarding youth, especially those at elevated risk for untoward outcomes, must be based on sound scientific data. The goal of the proposed investigation is to advance our knowledge and understanding of the consequences of paternal involvement with the Criminal Justice System on the substance use/abuse/dependence and other psychopathology of their children. Knowledge about the determinants, over time, for negative youth outcomes, as well as protective factors, is critical to advancing targeted interventions in an effort to break the cycle of Criminal Justice involvement of the next generation.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
Research Project (R01)
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Risk, Prevention and Intervention for Addictions Study Section (RPIA)
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Deeds, Bethany
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New York State Psychiatric Institute
New York
United States
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Carli, V; Durkee, T; Wasserman, D et al. (2013) The association between pathological internet use and comorbid psychopathology: a systematic review. Psychopathology 46:1-13
Akesson, Bree; Smyth, J McGregor; Mandell, Donald J et al. (2012) Parental involvement with the criminal justice system and the effects on their children: a collaborative model for researching vulnerable families. Soc Work Public Health 27:148-64