Incarceration and the Life Course: Age-Graded Effects of the First Parental Incarceration Experience


Young, Brae; Collier, Nicole L.; Siennick, Sonja E.; & Mears, Daniel P. (2020). Incarceration and the Life Course: Age-Graded Effects of the First Parental Incarceration Experience. Journal of Developmental and Life-Course Criminology.


Research shows that parental incarceration can produce adverse effects across the life course. One question that remains largely unaddressed, however, is whether these effects are age-graded. Drawing on developmental and life-course scholarship, we argue that parental incarceration will exert different effects depending upon the developmental stage that it is first experienced. This study employs regression techniques using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (N = 11,670). Specifically, we examine whether the effects of parental incarceration are greater if it is experienced during the early childhood (i.e., before age 6). The outcomes examined include adult offending, marijuana use, depression, educational attainment, and earnings. The results revealed an apparent age-graded effect of parental incarceration during adulthood. However, post hoc tests indicated that the apparent differences are only statistically significant for criminal offending, lending only limited support for an age-graded effect of parental incarceration. Although experiencing parental incarceration during childhood may not exert an age-graded effect on adult outcomes, the results lend support to theoretical arguments that parental incarceration may serve as an event that is especially salient—or a “turning point”—in the lives of children.



parental incarceratio

Reference Type

Journal Article

Journal Title

Journal of Developmental and Life-Course Criminology


Young, Brae
Collier, Nicole L.
Siennick, Sonja E.
Mears, Daniel P.

Year Published






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