Parental incarceration continues to possess the risk of negative developmental effects on children and adolescents throughout the United States. Over the last two decades, this experience has increased significantly, as the amount of incarcerated adults has more than tripled (Casey, Masten, and Shlafer, 2015). Multiple articles look deeper into the consequences and life-long risk factors that children face while having incarcerated parents. The articles Parental Incarceration as a Risk Factor for Children in Homeless Families, Family Instability and Children’s Health, and Incarcerated Mothers and Fathers: A Comparison of Risks for Children and Families conducted research to examine the elevated risk factors of intergenerational incarceration, mental illness, substance abuse, and developmental delays.
The research in the first evaluated article addresses the risk factors associated with parental incarceration that include academic difficulties, delinquency, and criminal behavioral (Casey, Masten, and Shlafer, 2015). The assumptions of the research are clearly outlined as the expectancy that negative life experiences will be more prevalent in the lives of those who have experienced parental incarceration. While incarceration is at an all-time high, this research is relevant to fully understand the effects on the children involved. The on-going research assessed the amount of negative and ambiguous life events that had occurred in the lives of those children (Casey, Masten, and Shlafer, 2015). The scores were then computed and compared to those who have not experienced parental incarceration. As a result, it has been concluded that in comparison to children with no parental incarceration history, this population faces significantly more negative life events.
When reviewing this article from a critical viewpoint, the problem and significance are clearly outlined while the hypothesis is also stated in a concise manner. The article outlines the missing data which implies the limitations of the study. The researchers compare their data to previously examined data on homelessness in families to find that the two factors go hand-in-hand with each other. The design of the research is described fully, appropriate for the stated problem, and minimizes pre-existing weaknesses. The sample of 138 pairs of adult primary caregivers used in this research is appropriate for the subject but is geographically limited, as the sample is only taken from an urban area in the midwestern region (Casey, Masten, and Shlafer, 2015). The small sample size of just 45 children of incarcerated parents also shows some weakness in the study. The results of the research were drawn from this specific sample of the population. Data-gathering methods are clearly outlined, are appropriate, and have been utilized correctly. After analyzing the data, researchers were able to confidently determine that those children with a history of parental incarceration commonly experience objectively negative life events that can be predicted by a child’s internalizing symptoms (Casey, Masten, and Shlafer, 2015). The report is clearly organized and written, while the tone remains unbiased.
The research conducted in this study uses family systems theory as the basis. The originators conveyed the philosophy and underlying assumptions clearly, stating that the basic idea of family systems theory focuses on the theory that the whole is greater than the parts, or that the family as a unit is much more important than the individuals themselves (Hamon & Smith, 2017). The idea also revolves around the idea that the family is a system that has the ability to self-regulate, which ultimately makes it stronger than the individuals. These assumptions come from one of the first people to begin family therapy, Alfred Adler, who outlined the dynamics and factors of the cohesion within a family (Hamon & Smith, 2017). Family systems theory is sensitive to pluralistic human experiences related to things such as gender, ethnicity, and race. The individuals, despite these factors, are small components of a much larger product, but an insignificant member or event can change the entire dynamic of the unit (Hamon & Smith, 2017). This theory, not only is applicable to real families and situations but is used in education, therapy, and advocacy.
Continually, the article Family Instability and Children’s Health evaluates the idea of family structure changes presenting the power to create developmental risks to children. The family structure is based on the union status of the parents (Cavanagh, Crosnoe, and Smith, 2017). The significance of this problem and research is subject to the trends and changes in average households. In the United States, over 40% of all children live without both parents due to non-marriage, separation, or divorce (Cavanagh, Crosnoe, and Smith, 2017). The article looks further into the potential and harmful threat this poses to society. The assumptions are that this lack of stable family structures may undermine the development of a child, yield negative academic experiences, create socio-emotional problems, as well as behavioral issues (Cavanagh, Crosnoe, and Smith, 2017). The study was able to conclude the conceptual model does show a correlation between family instability and the health of children. The evidence and implications supporting such are laid out in an organized manner.
The information presented also outlines the relationship of the problem in relation to other research from the past. The research is related to studies that measure the habits parents develop under stressors and those related to academic performance (Cavanagh, Crosnoe, and Smith, 2017). While the research design is generally free of weaknesses, the ability to determine if a health condition is pre-existing or not could be difficult. Being able to pinpoint if a problem with a child is a direct result of family instability could be nearly impossible, which weakens the research. The sample used is conclusive across all populations, and the data-gathering methods are applicable to a broad range of topics. Validity, reliability and appropriate methods to analyze data are all present in this article. The article is written clearly and in an organized manner with key points such as methods, research design, and conclusions outlined.
Life course theory, which is the structure of this article, is the sequence of social roles that an individual will eventually enact (Life Course Theory, n.d.). The underlying assumptions relating to human behavior and family dynamics according to this theory are that lives are ultimately interdependent and connected together on several levels and that the past tends to shape the future, meaning that events that have happened in early life have the potential to shape the present on varying levels (Life Course Theory, n.d.). These assumptions are presented to support and interlock with each other. This theory also heavily relies on the timing of lives, breaking it down into three time frames. The extent that life course theory is sensitive to pluralistic human experience is very minimal. Instead, the theory focuses on the bigger picture of lives and interdependence rather than the details of age or ethnicity (Life Course Theory, n.d.). Ultimately, this theory is used and applied to real families in education and therapy. The approach is being adapted to countries such as Japan, Germany, Italy, India, and Norway to name a few (Life Course Theory, n.d.).
Lastly, the article Incarcerated Mothers and Fathers: A Comparison of Risks for Children and Families was examined, which is based on discovering the effects that parental incarceration has on children. The research looks at negative development, attachment relationships, and involvement in criminal behavior as a result (Dallaire, 2007). Approximately one of every forty children is affected by parental incarceration, which is the main factor of the importance of this subject (Dallaire, 2007). Researchers believe that intergenerational patterns may occur as a result of parental incarceration and maternal incarceration is more likely to suggest a history or pattern of drug abuse, as woman are more likely to be incarcerated as a result of drug-related crimes (Dallaire, 2007). While limits do exist in this research, the design is free of any specific weaknesses.
While the subject and hypothesis of this research are clear, the author also was very specific in the design of this. The method of sampling is appropriate and includes a large sample. The sample is also representative of the nation. After the sample was collected, some participants were dropped to meet the criteria, which indicates that the researcher cared about the quality of the research (Dallaire, 2007). With a sample size of over seven thousand, the researcher indicates inclusive selectiveness. The methods, procedures, solutions, and utilization of data-gathering methods are appropriate for this research. Validity and reliability are established in the research and the researcher was able to apply the methods in analyzing the data correctly. Notably, the conclusions and findings are clearly presented in a way that highlights the five main findings of the research (Dallaire, 2007). The conclusions are drawn strictly from the evidence presented and from the population of the sample. The article is written in a clear and concise manner that is easy for readers to follow.
A large portion of this research is based on attachment theory, which breaks down the basic idea of how the parent and child relationships develop (McLeod, 2009). Maternal incarceration would separate or disrupt the relationship between mother and child, which increases the risk of negatively affecting the child. This directly affects the child’s ability to maintain relationships in life, while presenting symptoms of anxiety and elevated risks of substance abuse. The underlying theory is that an insecure or disorganized relationship with a mother can have troubling effects on the child’s development (McLeod, 2009). Since the research surrounding attachment theory largely focuses on babies, it is minimally sensitive to pluralistic human experiences. Attachment theory, however, can be related and applied to real families and used for therapy. Attachment theory explains stranger anxiety, separation anxiety, and social referencing (McLeod, 2009).
In conclusion, all of the assessed articles were minimally limited in research. Each article was clear in the problems of the issue, the research design, data-gathering, analysis, and conclusions. While all three of the articles reviewed focused on the direct effects parental incarceration has on child developments, each used a different approach and theory. All articles provide reliable and valid research that enforce the theory that parental incarceration has effects on children in various aspects of development and behavior.