5 Million US Children Have Had Incarcerated Parent

And that's hurting them, according to a new report
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 27, 2015 6:00 PM CDT
5 Million US Children Have Had Incarcerated Parent
Inmate Taryn Mitchell, center, plays jump rope with her daughter, Lamariae Williams, 10, right, and cousin Schelette Butler during their visit at the Folsom Women's Facility in California.   (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

One in 14 children have had at least one parent incarcerated during their life—a percentage that's even higher for poor children and black children—and that's having a negative impact on their lives, USA Today reports The statistics come from a report—Parents Behind Bars: What Happens to Their Children?—published Tuesday by Child Trends. Report co-author David Murphey says he wants the public to "realize there's more to it than the adults themselves." Children with an incarcerated parent can suffer from a lack of contact with that parent and fear of visiting them in prison, but also from societal stigma, according to the AP. "If your parent is a soldier overseas, everyone says, 'Oh, you're brave,'" one expert says. "When your parent is in prison…you're not viewed in the same heroic way."

The Christian Science Monitor reports more than 5 million children have experienced having a parent incarcerated—three times more than earlier estimates that only looked at children who had a parent currently locked up. "Most research finds negative outcomes for these children, such as childhood health and behavioral problems and grade retention," Murphey tells USA Today. "Children who grow up with a parent in prison are more likely to suffer from poor mental and physical health in adulthood." Child Trends is fighting for a number of changes, including better communication between children and their incarcerated parents and child-friendly visiting areas and practices in prisons. The AP reports even something as small as allowing children to hug their locked-up parents can have a big impact. (More prison stories.)

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