Emotional and Physical Health Consequences for Children of Jailed Parents

Michael Coghlan/Flickr

In the United States, more than half (54%) of all prison inmates are parents with minor children. As we discuss in the December AJN Reports, those children—an estimated 2.7 million, or one in 28—face physical and emotional health challenges that often go overlooked, including:

  • obesity, asthma, migraines, and hypertension
  • depression, anxiety, PTSD, and problems at school, including a higher likelihood of being expelled or suspended

Additionally, children with incarcerated parents are at an economic disadvantage due to lowered family income caused by the parent’s absence, and are more likely to experience racial discrimination, parental divorce or separation, a parent’s death, domestic abuse, neighborhood violence, and coresidence with a mentally ill or suicidal person or with a person who has a substance abuse problem.

Children of detained and deported immigrants.

Wife and daughters of unauthorized immigrant at protest of his arrest by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Photo by Ted Soqui © 2017.

Children of detained or deported immigrants face similar health and emotional problems. A 2015 joint report from the Urban Institute and the Migration Policy Institute noted that children of detained or deported parents exhibited symptoms like depression, stomachaches or headaches, self-cutting, and poor school performance. Most also lack access to health care.

How can nurses help children of incarcerated parents?

As both incarceration rates and rates of detentions of unauthorized immigrants continue to rise, what can health care workers do to mitigate the effects on children?

The common link is trauma.

Awareness of the potential issues they face is the first step. According to Lorie Goshin, PhD, RN, an assistant professor of nursing at Hunter College in New York City, trauma links both populations of children—and should be recognized. “All our work moving forward must acknowledge that,” she told AJN.

Let us know your experiences or thoughts about this issue.

2017-12-15T08:29:46+00:00 December 15th, 2017|Patients|0 Comments

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Editor, American Journal of Nursing

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