Child Trauma Within the Context of Parental Incarceration: A Family Process Perspective


Department of Human Development, 311 Wallace Hall (0416), Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061 (


Informed by theory and the available empirical research, 3 family processes are identified that contribute to child trauma within the context of a parent's imprisonment: (a) preincarceration factors, including the involvement of the offender parent and children's exposure to arrest; (b) caregiving quality and stability; and (c) the nature of children's visitation experience during the offender parent's confinement. Children whose parents were involved contributors in their day-to-day lives prior to imprisonment, who have been subject to harsh and unstable care and exposed to other traumagenic factors associated with incarceration (e.g., violence, maltreatment), and who have difficult visitation experiences have the most intense and long-lasting traumatic experiences.