A recent study published in the Journal of Health Care for Women International has reported that having adult family members who are incarcerated during childhood can affect the neurological health of female children throughout their lifetime


Research shows that adult family members contribute to the health of children throughout their life span by fostering a safe environment. Researchers of a study in the Journal of Health Care for Women International have determined that adult female prison inmates who had at least one adult member of their family imprisoned during childhood were more likely to have life-long neurological problems in adulthood compared to those without incarcerated adult family members. Some of the neurological problems and unusual neurological histories reported in these inmates included traumatic brain injury (TBI), gait abnormalities, memory deficit, stroke, seizures, central nervous system (CNS) tumor, migraine, exposure to lead and/or other toxins and having survived CPR. The inmates who had incarcerated adult family members during childhood also reported more frequent and more severe childhood abuse compared to those inmates who did not have any incarcerated adult family members.

The research involved a secondary analysis of data from randomly selected female prison inmates in a Mid-Atlantic state in the United States. Of the 135 inmates who participated in the study, 99 had at least one family member incarcerated during childhood. The researchers collected self-report data from private interviews with the inmates as well as data from neurological histories, neurological examinations and physical examinations of the inmates.

The inmates in the study also reported a series of incidents, commonly childhood abuse, contributing to their lack of concern for others and themselves, usually resulting in high-risk behaviors for accidents, spread of infectious disease, fights and ongoing neurological decline. The findings show that having incarcerated adult family members during childhood can put females at a higher risk for becoming abused and increased risk for neurological damage that results in further high-risk behaviors leading to neurological problems.

The results of this study suggest that children in families with incarcerated adults and adults who had incarcerated family members during childhood are a vulnerable population for life-long neurological decline. This finding is useful considering that the rate of incarceration of parents in the United States is growing and neurological disorders are expected to increase in the growing aging population. It is recommended that initiatives be taken by the community to prevent and rehabilitate lifetime neurological decline in this vulnerable population.

Those who work with children of families with incarcerated adults can teach them coping strategies to prevent the development of behavioral and emotional disorders and to become more resistant to hardship in order to prevent ongoing neurological problems. It could also be useful to address high-risk behaviors, such as those causing accidents, in this vulnerable population to prevent further neurological issues during the life span.




Written By: Nigar Celep, BASc

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