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Kids of parental incarceration more likely to have first child before marriage

Posted June 23

Kids with a parent or other household member in prison are 44 percent more likely to have their first child before marriage, according to a new study from Princeton University.

Aaron Gottlieb, the author of the study, drew from a sample size of 6,027 people. He used data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (NLSY79) and the children of the mothers from the NLSY79. Fifty-one percent of the sample were male, 49 percent were female, 44 percent were white, 35 percent were black and 22 percent were Hispanic.

American incarceration rates peaked in 2013 with 716 per 100,000 of the nation's population behind bars, or 2.3 million people were in various state and federal prisons, juvenile correctional facilities, local jails, military prisons, immigration detention facilities and civil commitment centers, according to Prison Policy. A Rutgers University fact sheet explained that more than 2.7 million children in the U.S. have an incarcerated parent or 1 in every 28 children. Additionally, almost 10 million children in the U.S. have experienced parental incarceration at some point in their lives.

"In the first set of analyses, I explore whether a variable capturing the incarceration of any household member is associated with the risk of having a premarital first birth. In the second set of analyses, I dig deeper into this association by exploring whether the association differs depending on who in the household is incarcerated (father, mother, sibling or extended household member)," Gottlieb wrote in the study report.

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, factors that affect children following parental incarceration are their living situation, caretaker and time their parent will be away.

Gottlieb wrote he factored in premarital birth rates because they are known for having negative effects like worse health outcomes, increased welfare and poverty, reduction in labor force participation rate and likelihood of marriage. With more than 40 percent of U.S. child births now occurring outside of marriage, there may be negative consequences for children.

According to Gottlieb, there have been many reports done on parental incarceration because of the vital role a parent plays in a child's life. But he realized other family members and siblings may play a role in a child's life.

"We need to intervene, and we should focus not just when parents are incarcerated but when other household members are, as well," Gottlieb told phys.org.

Gottlieb found kids between ages 10 to 14 who had an incarcerated household member were 77 percent more likely to have their first baby before marriage.

"Once he adjusted for these and other maternal factors — like a mother’s drug use (beyond marijuana), her criminal violations, whether she had a baby as a teenager and her self-esteem levels — Gottlieb found that children who experienced the incarceration of any household member were still 41 percent more likely to have a premarital first birth," according to the news release from Princeton University.

Gottlieb also found significant associations between youth and paternal and extended family member incarcerations, but did not find any significance for incarcerated mothers and siblings. With his findings, he plans to study the data further, according to the news release.

Gottlieb mentioned in the news release it is important for policymakers to consider the negative consequences of familial incarceration.

Email: mmcnulty@deseretnews.com

Twitter: megchristine5

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