The Maryland Correctional Institution for Women
The Washington Post—Getty Images
By Nash Jenkins
October 27, 2015

One in 14 American children has a parent who has spent time in jail or is currently behind bars, according to a report released on Tuesday by Child Trends, a Maryland-based research center.

The study, which sought to examine “both the prevalence of parental incarceration and child outcomes associated with it,” concluded that an unexpectedly high number of children in the U.S. — more than 5 million — have seen a parent who lived with them go to jail. The study posits that a parent’s incarceration has a deleterious impact on his or her child’s mental and physical health, yielding, among other things, behavioral issues and substandard academic performance.

It is a crisis that disproportionately impacts black families. A black child is twice as likely to have an incarcerated parent, with nearly 14% of all black youths currently between the ages of 12 and 17 having seen a parent go to jail in their lifetimes. However, the study ventures that this figure may be an underestimation, since it does not account for parents who do not live at home with the child.

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