Degree Name

DrPH (Doctor of Public Health)


Public Health

Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Robert Pack

Committee Members

Randolph F. Wykoff, Timothy E. Alich


Children of incarcerated parents are at significantly increased risk of negative long-term outcomes. With about 1% of the adult population incarcerated, the United States has millions of children at risk for these negative outcomes. Research on this population is increasing; however, it is still unclear whether children of incarcerated parents are at an increased risk for poor school performance as a specific result of parental incarceration above that associated with their social and economic status. Because parental incarceration may result in a variety of outcomes that can negatively impact school performance including school mobility, prolonged exposure to stress, and insufficient adult support, it is likely that parental incarceration is an independent risk factor for poor school performance. This study evaluated the impact of parental incarceration on children's school performance. Analyses revealed a trend in lower test scores for children with incarcerated parents when compared with children in single-parent households and of similar socioeconomic status. Children with incarcerated parents were also 3.8 times more likely to be raised by a caregiver with less than a high school education. Finally, within a population of low SES, poverty still significantly predicted lower test scores along with caregiver education level and school mobility. The findings of this study should be useful in helping schools, communities, and service organizations more accurately identify high risk students and formulate effective intervention programs for these students. Finally, this study further informs an understanding of the societal impact of adult incarceration.

Document Type

Dissertation - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.