Paternal Incarceration and Children’s Physically Aggressive Behaviors: Evidence from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study

Publication Date: 
January 2011
Social Forces 89:285-310, University of North Carolina Press, Oxford Journal

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This study extends research on the consequences of mass imprisonment and the causes of children’s behavioral problems by considering the effects of paternal incarceration on children’s physical aggression at age 5 using data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study. Results suggest that paternal incarceration is associated with increased physical aggression for boys, and that effects are concentrated among boys whose fathers were neither incarcerated for a violent offense nor abusive to the boys’ mother. Results also suggest that paternal incarceration may decrease girls’ physical aggression, although this finding is not robust. Taken together, results imply that mass imprisonment may contribute to a system of stratification in which crime and incarceration are passed down from fathers to sons (but not daughters).