Parental incarceration, attachment and child psychopathology
Murray, J. and Murray, L. (2010) Parental incarceration, attachment and child psychopathology. Attachment & Human Development, 12 (4). pp. 289-309. ISSN 1461-6734
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1080/14751790903416889
Theory and evidence relating parental incarceration, attachment, and psychopathology are reviewed. Parental incarceration is a strong risk factor for long-lasting psychopathology, including antisocial and internalizing outcomes. Parental incarceration might threaten children's attachment security because of parent-child separation, confusing communication about parental absence, restricted contact with incarcerated parents, and unstable caregiving arrangements. Parental incarceration can also cause economic strain, reduced supervision, stigma, home and school moves, and other negative life events for children. Thus, there are multiple possible mechanisms whereby parental incarceration might increase risk for child psychopathology. Maternal incarceration tends to cause more disruption for children than paternal incarceration and may lead to greater risk for insecure attachment and psychopathology. Children's prior attachment relations and other life experiences are likely to be of great importance for understanding children's reactions to parental incarceration. Several hypotheses are presented about how prior insecure attachment and social adversity might interact with parental incarceration and contribute to psychopathology. Carefully designed longitudinal studies, randomized controlled trials, and cross-national comparative research are required to test these hypotheses.