Incarcerated Mothers and Fathers: A Comparison of Risks for Children and Families


*Danielle H. Dallaire is Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at The College of William and Mary, P.O. Box 8795, Williamsburg, VA 23187 (


Abstract: The current study investigates differences between inmate mothers’ and fathers’ reported rates of incarceration for family members, adult children, predictors of adult children’s incarceration, and living situations of minor children. Participants included 6,146 inmates who participated in the U.S. Department of Justice Survey of Inmates in State and Federal Correctional Facilities. Mothers were 2.5 times more likely to report that their adult children were incarcerated than fathers; mothers’ regular drug use predicted adult child incarceration. Incarcerated mothers reported greater familial incarceration and their minor children were more likely to be in foster and other nonfamilial care situations than incarcerated fathers. As risk factors accumulated, there were greater rates of adult child incarceration, with a more obvious relationship for mothers.