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Health Outcomes of Youth in the United States Exposed to Parental Incarceration

An Integrative Review

Boch, Samantha J., PhD, RN1; Ford, Jodi L., PhD, RN2

doi: 10.1097/JFN.0000000000000201
Review Papers

In the United States, parental incarceration (PI) has been increasingly recognized as an understudied adverse childhood experience. In response, a rapidly expanding body of research has begun to investigate the effects of PI on youth mental and physical health outcomes.

Objective: The purpose of this integrative review was to synthesize recent quantitative evidence investigating the effects of PI on youths' mental and physical health outcomes.

Design and Measures: Electronic strategies were used to find relevant quantitative articles published between September 2006 and 2016 using the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses–Equity guidelines. Articles in the review (N = 17) varied in study design and methodologic rigor, complicating the analysis.

Results: In general, U.S. youth exposed to PI are more likely than their unexposed peers to exhibit internalizing and externalizing behavioral difficulties. There is substantially less evidence on the associations between PI and the physical health of youth, in addition to the proposed linkages between exposure to PI and poor health. Overall, there is limited inclusion of contextual specifics of PI (e.g., type and duration of incarceration, relationship quality), which hampers generalizability.

Conclusion: Future research could investigate the biological and social linkages between PI and health outcomes. Forensic nurses could help build supportive environments and meaningful behavioral health interventions to assist the health of those youth with a parent incarcerated.

Author Affiliations:1Otterbein University and Nationwide Children’s Hospital and

2The Ohio State University College of Nursing.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Correspondence: Samantha J. Boch, PhD, RN, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, 700 Children’s Drive, Columbus, OH 43205. E-mail:

Supplemental digital content is available for this article. Direct URL citations appear in the printed text and are provided in the HTML and PDF versions of this article on the journal’s Web site (

Received September 20, 2017; accepted for publication March 13, 2018.

© 2018 by the International Association of Forensic Nurses. All rights reserved.
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