Understanding Child Behavior Problems in Young Children with Previously Incarcerated Fathers: Parents’ Depressive Symptoms, Relationship Quality, and Coparenting

Alexandria Pech, Melissa Curran, Katherine Speirs, Xiaomin Li, Melissa Barnett, Katherine Paschall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Guided by family systems theory, we focused on families where young children have experienced paternal incarceration (n = 775 families). We examined how characteristics of mothers and fathers at two levels of the family system–individual (i.e., depression) and relational (i.e., support/affection, constructive conflict, destructive conflict, and coparenting)—were associated with internalizing and externalizing child behavior problems in a sample of families with fathers who had been previously incarcerated. Using path analysis, we found a positive association between paternal depressive symptoms and child internalizing behaviors, as well as a positive association between maternal and paternal destructive conflict and children’s internalizing and externalizing child behaviors. Other relational characteristics, including support and affection, constructive conflict and coparenting alliance were not significantly related to children’s behavior problems. Interventions that target families with children of previously incarcerated fathers should support parents as individuals and as couples to benefit the entire family system by reducing child behavior problems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalMarriage and Family Review
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2020



  • child behavior problems
  • child well-being
  • coparenting
  • depressive symptoms
  • destructive conflict
  • family systems
  • parental incarceration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)

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