Prison nursery programs provide a unique bi-generational intervention for incarcerated women and their young children. Description of long-term child developmental outcomes of prison co-residence is needed to determine the effectiveness of this policy option. This study investigated behavior problems and competence in 47 preschool children who co-resided with their mother in a prison nursery and a subsample of 60 children from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study who were separated from their mother in infancy or toddlerhood because of her incarceration. Consistent with the theoretical underpinnings of the Organizational Perspective on Development, development was viewed in the context of ecological risk.
Thirty percent of children who co-resided in a prison nursery and 42% of separated children had at least one problem area in the clinical range. Caregivers for both groups of children were more likely to report levels of Aggression in the clinical range than a normative sample. The distribution of reports of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity, Anxious/Depressed, and Withdrawn behaviors in the clinical range in children who co-resided did not significantly differ from that seen in a normative sample. In contrast, rates of clinically significant behavior problems were higher than a normative sample in all areas for separated children. When behavior problem mean scores were compared directly, children who spent time in a prison nursery had lower mean Anxious/Depressed behavior problem scores than separated children, even after controlling for the child's gender, cumulative ecological risk, and the differential propensity to have co-resided given the mother's race, age, and education at the child's birth. Child gender and cumulative risk, but not prison nursery co-residence, significantly predicted the variance in Withdrawn behavior scores. No significant differences were found for Aggressive or Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity behavior problems, or behavior competence.
Findings suggest that in spite of high levels of contextual risk in the post-release environment prison nursery co-residence may confer resilience to certain behavior problems in the preschool period. Results are discussed with respect to the pivotal role of attachment security in moderating the effect of ecological risk on preschool behavior outcomes in children who experience early maternal incarceration.
|Advisor:||Byrne, Mary W.|
|School Location:||United States -- New York|
|Source:||DAI-B 72/05, Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Nursing, Public health, Criminology|
|Keywords:||Behavior problems, Incarcerated mothers, Preschoolers, Prison nurseries|
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