Title

Fostering the Social and Emotional Development of Students Experiencing Parental Incarceration

Location

Harborside Center

Strand #1

Social & Emotional Skills

Relevance

Research shows us that children experiencing parental incarceration do not receive the same level of social and emotional support as children who experience parental loss for more socially acceptable reasons such as divorce, military deployment, or death. This presentation connects with the heart strand of the conference and seeks to increase awareness of the specific risk factors these children face and addresses how educators can foster a supportive school climate that will enhance the educational outcomes for this population of students.

Brief Program Description

Nearly 2 million children in the US have an incarcerated parent. Research shows that these children do not receive the same level of social and emotional support as children whose parents are absent for other reasons. This presentation addresses the risk factors that these children face and provides practical solutions for educators to develop a more supportive school environment.

Summary

This presentation will review current literature on children experiencing parental incarceration. Specific risk factors and educational outcomes will be addressed. One major reason that parental incarceration is misunderstood as a definitive risk pathway is that it is not a singular event, but rather a process with several stages ranging from arrest to possible reintegration with the family. The developmental age and the circumstance around the parent’s arrest and subsequent incarceration will also affect how the child perceives and reacts to their situation. Although some children may benefit from the removal of a parent and resultant illegal activity, many children may still experience feelings of grief and loss over the parent’s absence. Fostering the social and emotional development of children experiencing parental incarceration is important because these students are at a greater risk for emotional dysregulation, antisocial behavior, social stigmatization from peers and school faculty, and future negative interactions with law enforcement. Social stigmas concerning incarceration are often passed on to the children of incarcerated parents. The mass incarceration of neighborhoods and the disproportionate number of minority children facing this phenomenon only compound this issue. Through the use of hypothetical case studies conference attendees will explore how the social stigmatization of incarceration can affect the perceptions educators have of children with incarcerated parents. Increasing awareness of additional risk factors associated with parental incarceration and exploring the development of service models to meet the social and emotional needs of this population is essential to helping educators work towards fostering a more supportive school climate for children experiencing parental absence due to imprisonment.

Evidence

According to Phillips and O'Brien (2012), in the past research did not consider parental incarceration as its own risk category, but rather a consequence of exposure to parental substance abuse, mental illness, and other parental/societal risk factors; however recent research suggests that it is a definitive risk pathway because the effects of incarceration introduce additional adversity into children's lives. One reason the effects of parental incarceration are so difficult to measure is that incarceration is not a single event, but rather a dynamic process that unfolds over time (Parke & Clarke-Stewart, 2003). Research has shown that children with incarcerated parents are five times more likely to also be incarcerated in the future; they are also more likely to suffer maladjustment and less likely to complete their education (McGee, Davis, Connor, Haysbert, & Kelly, 2014). Parke and Clarke-Stewart (2003) note that children with imprisoned parents experience many school related problems such as: (a) difficult peer relationships; (b) poor academic performance; (c) aggressive tendencies; (d) transient school phobias following the arrest; (e) and victimization and stigmatization from peers. School faculty and staff may also view a child with a parent in prison in a negative light and not as deserving of assistance as children suffering parental loss from more acceptable forms of loss like divorce, war, and death (Johnson, 2012). Phillips and Gates (2011) explore the process of stigmatization of children with imprisoned parents; this study asserts that these children frequently experience stigmatization and a lack of social support, while children whose parents are absent because of divorce or lost due to death receive an outpouring of community support and assistance from the school community. The growing number of incarcerations, particularly the high incidence of “mass incarcerations” of neighborhoods means that this is a complex and growing social issue that is bound to affect many children across the US (Graham, & Harris, 2013). Children experiencing parental loss due to incarceration are a distinct at risk category, however not all children will experience negative outcomes and research has shown that there are a variety of interventions that are effective with this population. Parke and Clark-Stewart (2003) found that group interventions addressed the need for social support, increased self-esteem and helped to eliminate the sense of shame associated with parental incarceration. Johnson (2012) found that conceptualizing the needs of these students into three clusters; Specialized Services, Individual Development, and Counseling and Support provides a comprehensive framework for providing interventions. Increasing educators’ awareness of negative attitudes towards children and fostering the development of social and emotional support systems these children receive from the school community can greatly enhance the outcomes of these students.

References

Graham, J. A., & Harris, Y. R. (2013). Children of color and parental incarceration: Implications for research, theory, and practice. Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development,

Johnson, T. (2012). Mapping the critical service needs of adolescent children of prisoners. Social Work in Public Health, 27(1-2), 45-68.

McGee, Z. T., Davis, B., Connor, T., Haysbert, S., & Kelly, A. (2014). Examining the relationship between children’s behavioral outcomes and life events among incarcerated mothers. Journal of Social Welfare and Human Rights, 2(2), 49-70.

Myers, B. J., Mackintosh, V. H., Kuznetsova, M. I., Lotze, G. M., Best, A. M., & Ravindran, N. (2013). III.Teasing, bullying, and emotion regulation in children of incarcerated mothers. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 78(3), 26-40.

Murray, J., Farrington, D. P., & Sekol, I. (2012). Children's antisocial behavior, mental health, drug use, and educational performance after parental incarceration: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Psychological bulletin, 138(2), 175.

Parke, R. D., & Clarke-Stewart, K. A. (2003). The effects of parental incarceration on children. Prisoners once removed: The impact of incarceration and reentry on children, families, COUNSELING CHILDREN EXPERIENCING PARENTAL INCARCERATION 7

Phillips, S., & Gates, T. (2011). A conceptual framework for understanding the stigmatization of children of incarcerated parents. Journal of Child & Family Studies, 20(3), 286-294. doi:10.1007/s10826-010-9391-6

Phillips, S. D., & O'Brien, P. (2012). Learning from the ground up: Responding to children affected by parental incarceration. Social work in public health, 27(1-2), 29-44.

Format

Poster Presentation

Biographical Sketch

Megan Holder holds a BS in psychology and a minor in Education from Clemson University. She is currently an EdS School Counseling student at the University of South Carolina. Her interests include enhancing academic achievement, Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), increasing female student involvement in STEM courses, self-efficacy, resiliency, children with divorced parents, children with incarcerated parents, group counseling, and play therapy.

Keyword Descriptors

Parental Incarceration, social-emotional development, group counseling, school climate

Presentation Year

2016

Start Date

3-8-2016 4:00 PM

End Date

3-8-2016 5:30 PM

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Mar 8th, 4:00 PM Mar 8th, 5:30 PM

Fostering the Social and Emotional Development of Students Experiencing Parental Incarceration

Harborside Center

Nearly 2 million children in the US have an incarcerated parent. Research shows that these children do not receive the same level of social and emotional support as children whose parents are absent for other reasons. This presentation addresses the risk factors that these children face and provides practical solutions for educators to develop a more supportive school environment.