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Linking parental incarceration and family dynamics associated with intergenerational transmission: A life‐course perspective*

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Published online on


--- - |2 Abstract Children experiencing parental incarceration face numerous additional disadvantages, but researchers have often relied on these other co‐occurring factors primarily as controls. In this article, we focus on the intimate links between crime and incarceration, as well as on the broader family context within which parental incarceration often unfolds. Thus, parents’ drug use and criminal behavior that precedes and may follow incarceration periods may be ongoing stressors that directly affect child well‐being. We also use our analyses to foreground mechanisms associated with social learning theories, including observations and communications that increase the child's risk for criminal involvement and other problem outcomes. These related family experiences often channel the child's own developing network ties (peers, romantic partners) that then serve as proximal influences. We explore these processes by drawing on qualitative and quantitative data from a study of the lives of a sample of respondents followed from adolescence to young adulthood, as well as on records searches of parents’ incarceration histories. Through our analyses, we find evidence that 1) some effects attributed to parental incarceration likely connect to unmeasured features of the broader family context, and b) together parental incarceration and the broader climate often constitute a tightly coupled package of family‐related risks linked to intergenerational continuities in criminal behavior and other forms of social disadvantage. - 'Criminology, EarlyView. '