Mentors & Children of Incarcerated Parents

As of 2010, approximately 1.9 million US children had a parent currently in prison, with the number of children who had experienced parental incarceration at some point in their childhood estimated to be around 7% of all US children (Wakefield & Wildeman, 2018). This rupture in attachment is linked to relational, psychological, and behavioral difficulties, and therefore policy makers, educators, and administrators are looking for interventions that may alleviate these negative consequences (Sheinbaun et al., 2015; Lee, Fang, & Luo, 2013; Turney, 2014). One particularly promising avenue of support for youth with incarcerated parents involves mentoring relationships with non-parental adults (Rhodes & DuBois, 2008; DuBois, Holloway, Valentine, & Cooper, 2002). However most research focuses primarily on formal mentoring programs rather than natural mentors already in the youth’s community.

Given this gap in the research, the current study tests whether the presence of a natural mentor buffers the risk for negative long-term psychological (i.e., depression, anxiety) and behavioral (e.g., delinquency, substance abuse, justice system involvement) outcomes in adolescents who have experienced parental incarceration. Analyses will control for demographic characteristics, including race/ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic status. Moreover, since parental incarceration tends to co- occur with a variety of other stressful environments, including family chaos and upheaval and exposure to community violence (Johnson, 2012), an additional set of analyses will also co-vary for stressful contexts such as poverty and maltreatment to determine the unique impact of parental incarceration.