Attachment and caregiving relationships in families affected by parental incarceration

Rebecca J. Shlafer, Julie Poehlmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

100 Scopus citations


This longitudinal, mixed method study focused on 57 families of children who participated in a mentoring program for children of incarcerated parents. Children ranged in age from 4 to 15 years. Monthly interviews were conducted with children, caregivers, and mentors during the first six months of program participation, and questionnaires were administered at intake and six months to assess caregiver-child and incarcerated parent-child relationships, contact with incarcerated parents, and children's behavior problems. Although some children viewed their incarcerated parents as positive attachment figures, other children reported negative feelings toward or no relationship with incarcerated parents. In addition, our assessments of children nine years old and older revealed that having no contact with the incarcerated parent was associated with children reporting more feelings of alienation toward that parent compared to children who had contact. Children's behavior problems were a primary concern, often occurring in a relational context or in reaction to social stigma associated with parental imprisonment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)395-415
Number of pages21
JournalAttachment and Human Development
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2010


  • Attachment
  • Behavior problems
  • Parental incarceration
  • Relationships
  • Visitation

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