Health Outcomes of Youth in the United States Exposed to Parental Incarceration: An Integrative Review

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In the United States, parental incarceration (PI) has been increasingly recognized as an understudied adverse childhood experience. In response, a rapidly expanding body of research has begun to investigate the effects of PI on youth mental and physical health outcomes.Objective:The purpose of this integrative review was to synthesize recent quantitative evidence investigating the effects of PI on youths' mental and physical health outcomes.Design and Measures:Electronic strategies were used to find relevant quantitative articles published between September 2006 and 2016 using the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses–Equity guidelines. Articles in the review (N = 17) varied in study design and methodologic rigor, complicating the analysis.Results:In general, U.S. youth exposed to PI are more likely than their unexposed peers to exhibit internalizing and externalizing behavioral difficulties. There is substantially less evidence on the associations between PI and the physical health of youth, in addition to the proposed linkages between exposure to PI and poor health. Overall, there is limited inclusion of contextual specifics of PI (e.g., type and duration of incarceration, relationship quality), which hampers generalizability.Conclusion:Future research could investigate the biological and social linkages between PI and health outcomes. Forensic nurses could help build supportive environments and meaningful behavioral health interventions to assist the health of those youth with a parent incarcerated.

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