American Sociological Association

Linked Lives in Double Jeopardy: Child Incarceration and Maternal Health at Midlife

Parents’ relationships with their adult children play an important role in shaping mid and later life health. While these relationships are often sources of support, stressors in the lives of children can compromise parents’ health as they age. I consider that a child’s incarceration is also a stressor that could imperil parents’ health through social, emotional, and economic strains that parents may experience as a result. Using data on 3,159 mothers from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 in a series of lagged dependent variable regression models, I find that a child’s incarceration is associated with declines in maternal health between ages 40 and 50. These associations are largest for mothers who had grandchildren by their child at the time of the child’s incarceration. I close by discussing the implications of child incarceration for intergenerational ties and other social determinants of midlife health.

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Alyssa W. Goldman





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