Sexual Risk Outcomes of U.S. Adults Exposed to Parental Incarceration

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Samantha Boch, BA, BS, RN
Jodi Ford, PhD, RN
College of Nursing, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, USA

Purpose and Background/Significance:In the United States, approximately 1.7 million children have a parent incarcerated in prison. Due to mass incarceration, the spillover consequences onto the health of children are burgeoning. Studies have found that children exposed to parental incarceration (PI) are more likely to experience numerous economic, educational, and behavioral difficulties, as well as poor physical, and mental health. Recent studies have also highlighted that the timing and frequency of PI, and gender of the parent incarcerated may have particularly deleterious effects on the well-being of children across the life course.  However, to date, few have investigated the effect of PI on sexual risk outcomes despite evidence linking PI to substance use, which commonly co-occurs with sexual risk behaviors. Thus, the purpose of this study is to investigate the associations between (1) lifetime exposure of PI (2) timing of PI with respect to child’s age, and (3) frequency of PI and sexual risk outcomes.

Theoretical framework: A bioecodevelopmental framework will guide the study, which centers on the effects of early childhood adversity (e.g. PI) on health outcomes across the life course.

Method: Secondary data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health will be analyzed. Dependent variables include sexual risk outcomes: multiple sexual partners and STIs in the prior year. Independent variables include biological father and mother incarceration occurring in child’s lifetime, frequency of PI, and timing of PI with respect to the child’s age (0-18 years, or >18 years v. never). Consistent with prior PI research, analyses will be stratified by gender of parent and child as associations may differ.

Results: Research is underway.

Conclusions: This study builds upon prior research by the authors on the lasting effects of PI exposure during adolescence on adult health outcomes. Consistent with emerging nursing science elucidating the importance of early childhood events on health across the life course, the knowledge gained from this study will enhance our understanding of the longitudinal impact of PI on sexual risk outcomes among adults and illuminate pathways for STI prevention.