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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

NCJ Number
Criminology Volume: 49 Issue: 4 Dated: November 2011 Pages: 1109-1148
Date Published
November 2011
40 pages

This study investigated the consequences of a father's incarceration for children across racial and ethnic groups, specifically a sample of adolescent Black, White, and Hispanic males.


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. The authors 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, study 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, the authors 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, the findings suggest benefits from public policies that focus on male youth "at risk" as a result of having an incarcerated father. (Published Abstract)

Date Published: November 1, 2011