Maternal incarceration and young adult arrest: Examining the effect of sibling relationships


Woodard, Tracey L. (2017). Maternal incarceration and young adult arrest: Examining the effect of sibling relationships.


The general purpose of this research is to contribute to the efforts in understanding the effect of maternal incarceration on young adult well-being outcomes, and the factors that may buffer or exacerbate any negative effect. There is a need to identify and understand the important differences between those children who overcome the adversity of maternal incarceration compared to those who do not. In particular, this study builds on the recent literature on heterogeneity in maternal incarceration effects by examining how social support, specifically sibling relationships, moderate the effect of maternal incarceration on young adult arrest. It is hypothesized that children who have a sibling residing with them during adolescence will experience less of an adverse effect when subjected to maternal incarceration. Additionally, it is expected that children who have siblings residing with them during adolescence will have differential outcomes that are associated with the quality of sibling relationships. Specifically, those children reporting positive sibling relationships will experience better outcomes while those with negative sibling relationships will experience more harmful outcomes. Evidence exits that the consequences of parental incarceration vary by both parent and offspring sex. Considering possible gender differences, it is predicted that the effect of maternal incarceration on young adult arrest will be differentially conditioned by the gender composition of the sibling relationship. Because there has been found to be greater similarity in behavior in same-gender sibling pairs, it is expected that mixed-sibling pairs will experience higher levels of criminal justice involvement while same-gender sibling pairs will experience lower levels. Furthermore, attention is given to whether any differential effects exist for sons versus daughters who experience maternal incarceration. Data from National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health) are used to examine these research questions. This study not only draws attention to sibling relationships as an important consideration for youth experiencing maternal incarceration, but also further highlights how sons and daughters may cope differently with this particular form of adversity. A fundamental finding from this study is that sibling relationships are highly relevant for understanding the impact of parental incarceration on adult offending and arrest. Given the fact that a substantial number of incarcerated parents have children younger than 18, appropriate services need to be made available to children and their families immediately after a parent is incarcerated. Interventions aimed at improving well-being outcomes of children of incarcerated parents should involve other members of the family, including the other parent, siblings, grandparents, and others living in the home.



Social sciences Adult arrest Maternal incarceration Siblings Criminology Individual & family studies


Copyright - Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works. Last updated - 2017-07-10

Reference Type


Book Title

Criminology and Criminal Justice


Woodard, Tracey L.

Series Author(s)

Stults, Brian

Year Published


Volume Number





Florida State University

City of Publication

Ann Arbor





Reference ID