Parental Incarceration and the Transformation of American Adulthood

Kristin Turney, University of California, Irvine
Yader Lanuza, University of California, Irvine

A burgeoning literature considers the collateral consequences of parental incarceration, a stressor experienced by a growing and unequally distributed number of children, for the wellbeing of children and adolescents. But this literature almost exclusively overlooks how incarceration affects an additional important life course stage, the transition to adulthood. In this manuscript, we use data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (N = 9,320) to explore how both paternal and maternal incarceration are associated with accelerated transitions to adulthood, measured when children are ages 18 to 24. The results show that both paternal incarceration and, to a lesser extent, maternal incarceration accelerates the transition to adulthood. The results also provide some evidence that parental incarceration is most consequential when it occurs early in the life course. Taken together, results suggest that mass incarceration may transform the transition to adulthood in the United States.

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Presented in Session 196: Transition to Adulthood