Parental Incarceration and the Family

Psychological and Social Effects of Imprisonment on Children, Parents, and Caregivers

258 pages

May, 2014

ISBN: 9781479868155



Also available in


Joyce A. Arditti is Professor of Human Development at Virginia Tech. Her research interests include family disruption, parent-child relationships in vulnerable families, and public policy. Her scholarship is recognized nationally and abroad and she has published numerous empirical and review articles in therapy, human services, family studies, and criminal justice journals. Joyce recently served as the editor in chief of Family Relations: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Applied Family Studies.

All books by Joyce A. Arditti

Winner of the 2014 Outstanding Book Award presented by the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences
Over 2% of U.S.children under the age of 18—more than 1,700,000 children—have a parent in prison. These children experience very real disadvantages when compared to their peers: they tend to experience lower levels of educational success, social exclusion, and even a higher likelihood of their own future incarceration. Meanwhile, their new caregivers have to adjust to their new responsibilities as their lives change overnight, and the incarcerated parents are cut off from their children’s development.
Parental Incarceration and the Family brings a family perspective to our understanding of what it means to have so many of our nation’s parents in prison. Drawing from the field’s most recent research and the author’s own fieldwork, Joyce Arditti offers an in-depth look at how incarceration affects entire families: offender parents, children, and care-givers. Through the use of exemplars, anecdotes, and reflections, Joyce Arditti puts a human face on the mass of humanity behind bars, as well as those family members who are affected by a parent’s imprisonment. In focusing on offenders as parents, a radically different social policy agenda emerges—one that calls for real reform and that responds to the collective vulnerabilities of the incarcerated and their kin.


  • "This richly-referenced book is both scholarly and engaging. Bringing a family focus to issues of incarceration, it combines a sound conceptual foundation and extensive literature review with vignettes and observations of real people who broke the law and are locked up for years. We get to see the impact that our nation’s correctional policies have on incarcerated mothers and fathers as well as on the children, spouses, and extended family who are left back home. Comprehensive and insightful, this book will become a standard reference for scholars, policy-makers, and anyone concerned about what incarceration does to families and to our society."

    —Barbara J. Myers, Virginia Commonwealth University

  • "Skillfully weaves the perspectives of a scientist and clinician with the experiences of incarcerated parents to shed light on child and family outcomes related to one of the largest uncontrolled social experiments in our history."

    —J. Mark Eddy, School of Social Work, University of Washington