Today the majority of adults incarcerated in the United States are parents, affecting an estimated 1.5 million children nationwide. The arrest and imprisonment of a parent is a significant trauma for children, and they often react by demonstrating a pattern of aggression, anxiety, hyperarousal, depression, attention disorders, developmental regression, and "survival guilt." These children of offenders can display behaviors similar to those of children with a parent who has committed suicide or is murdered, as well as behaviors stemming from other forms of parental loss. Children of criminal, jailed, or imprisoned parents have long been identified as being at high risk for juvenile delinquency, and statistics reveal an alarming trend toward second-generation incarceration. This one-of-a-kind book outlines for professionals working with these children the optimum time to provide intervention following significant trauma, and shows that direct preventative and early intervention services to children of offenders can help them cope and can steer them away from a life in which crime plays an all too familiar role. The authors and their contributors, including Meda Chesney-Lind, offer guidance to aid social workers, psychologists, and others who work with children whose parents are in prison to help meet the children's needs and prevent future delinquency, adult offenses, and ultimately, cross-generational incarceration.
Katherine Gabel is president of Pacific Oaks College and Children's School in Pasadena, California. Denise Johnston is director of the Center for Children of Incarcerated Parents at Pacific Oaks College.