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ASSOCIATIONS OF FATHERS' HISTORY OF INCARCERATION WITH SONS' DELINQUENCY AND ARREST AMONG BLACK, WHITE, AND HISPANIC MALES IN THE UNITED STATES

Authors


  • This research uses data from Add Health, a program project directed by Kathleen Mullan Harris and designed by J. Richard Udry, Peter S. Bearman, and Kathleen Mullan Harris at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and funded by Grant P01-HD31921 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, with cooperative funding from 23 other federal agencies and foundations. Special acknowledgment is due to Ronald R. Rindfuss and Barbara Entwisle for assistance in the original design. Information on how to obtain the Add Health data files is available on the Add Health website (http://www.cpc.unc.edu/addhealth). No direct support was received from Grant P01-HD31921 for this analysis. Research funding was provided by a grant to the National Center for Family and Marriage Research from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, grant number 1 U01 AE000001-01, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (R01HD060726), and the NIH/NICHD funded CU Population Center (R24HD066613). The opinions and conclusions expressed herein are solely those of the author(s) and should not be construed as representing the opinions or policy of any agency of the federal government. Direct correspondence to Michael E. Roettger, Institute of Behavioral Science, University of Colorado–Boulder, 483 UCB, Boulder, CO 80309-0483 (e-mail: meroettger@alumni.unc.edu).

Abstract

Nearly 13 percent of young adult men report that their biological father has served time in jail or prison; yet surprisingly little research has examined how a father's incarceration is associated with delinquency and arrest in the contemporary United States. Using a national panel of Black, White, and Hispanic males, this study examines whether experiencing paternal incarceration is associated with increased delinquency in adolescence and young adulthood. We find a positive association with paternal incarceration that is robust to controls for several structural, familial, and adolescent characteristics. Relative to males not experiencing a father's incarceration, our results show that those experiencing a father's incarceration have an increased propensity for delinquency that persists into young adulthood. Using a national probability sample, we also find that a father's incarceration is highly and significantly associated with an increased risk of incurring an adult arrest before 25 years of age. These observed associations are similar across groups of Black, White, and Hispanic males. Taken as a whole, our findings suggest benefits from public policies that focus on male youth “at risk” as a result of having an incarcerated father.

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