Date of Award

5-2-2022

Degree Type

Closed Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Rose A. Sevcik

Second Advisor

Christopher C. Henrich

Third Advisor

Seyda Ozcaliskan

Fourth Advisor

Kenneth G. Rice

Abstract

Reading comprehension, social skills, and engagement at school are important for child development and successful academic trajectories. However, there is little understood about how the absence of fathers, specifically due to incarceration, impacts these child outcomes. The social and school experiences of children whose fathers are incarcerated have been found to be different from the experiences of children whose fathers are absent for other reasons (e.g., divorce, separation, death). Also, boys have been suggested to be at greater risk for school exclusionary discipline and other behavior problems, therefore the moderating role of gender was addressed. This study examined the relationship between father incarceration (when the children were ages 1-9) on children’s reading comprehension, socioemotional behaviors, and school exclusionary discipline over time (ages 9-15). This study addressed the paucity of longitudinal research for children of incarcerated fathers, as well as the inclusion of a racially diverse sample. A secondary data analysis of at-risk children from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (FFCWS) was conducted. Father incarceration was hypothesized to be significant for the outcomes of reading comprehension, socioemotional skills, and school exclusionary discipline. Additionally, the experience of father incarceration was hypothesized to be different for boys. The effect of father incarceration on the outcomes of reading comprehension, socioemotional skills, and school exclusionary discipline was not found. Also, the experience of father incarceration was not different for boys. However, there were significant relationships between early childhood variables (e.g., receptive vocabulary, externalizing behavior, parent income, education level) and reading comprehension, socioemotional skills, and school exclusionary discipline. Additionally, results indicated that children whose mothers that had ever been in jail and children whose fathers that had been in jail prior to the study were more likely to experience school exclusion at age 9 and 15, respectively. Findings from this study suggest that father incarceration and the moderating role of gender do not influence these educationally and socially relevant outcomes, which may suggest that children of incarcerated fathers are more resilient than previously described in the literature. Other strengths, limitations, and suggestions for future research are discussed.

DOI

https://doi.org/10.57709/28524613

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