Abstract: Characteristics of Young Fathers in Jail: Associations with Father-Child Relationship and Recidivism (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

Characteristics of Young Fathers in Jail: Associations with Father-Child Relationship and Recidivism

Thursday, January 17, 2019: 4:15 PM
Union Square 21 Tower 3, 4th Floor (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Luyi Jian, MS, MSW Student, Washington University in Saint Louis, MO
Carrie Pettus-Davis, PhD, Associate Professor, Washington University in Saint Louis, MO
Background:Extent research on paternal incarceration has primarily focused on convicted fathers in prisons and child and maternal outcomes as a result of a father’s incarceration. Little research has been conducted on fathers incarcerated in pretrial jail settings, particularly young fathers in jail. Moreover, existing research provides little understanding of characteristics and experiences of young fathers in jail nor those factors that influence their father-child relationships. This study aims todescribe the characteristics of young fathers in jail and explore associations between father-child relationships, behavioral health factors, and recidivism.

Methods:Data were collected from a sample of 103 jailed fathers who were ages 18 to 25. Baseline data included demographics, family formation, father-child relationship, general self-efficacy, depression, substance abuse, and exposure to trauma and violence. Recidivism data were collected within 2 years of the study participants' enrollment in the study. We examined the relationship between ten variables prior research suggests is relevant to father-child relationships in general population samples. These variables included: father-child relationship, incarceration history, employment experience, training on fathering skills, self-efficacy, depression, substance use, community violence exposure, trauma history, and recidivism. Cronbach’s alpha was used to assess scale reliability for all composite variables except for variables measured by standardized assessment instruments. Spearman correlation, Pearson correlation, independent-samples t-test, Pearson chi-square test, and logistic regression were used in data analysis.

Results: Ninety percent of participants were African American with little education, low income, multiple contacts with correctional system, high unemployment rate, and limited work histories. Participants generally perceived themselves as having a good father-child relationship and showed high self-efficacy, but also have high prevalence of depression, substance use and trauma experience. Recidivism rate within two years of release is 49.4%. 

Significant positive relationships were found between father-child relationship and multiple variables including training on fathering skills (r=0.32, p<0.01), self-reported employment skills (r=0.42, p<0.01), length of job (r=0.21, p<0.05), weekly work hours (r=0.28, p<0.01), and self-efficacy (r=0.31, p<0.01). A negative relationship was found between father-child relationship and times of incarceration (r = -0.22, p<0.05). Differences in father-child relationship were found between participants who had a job (M=4.28, SD=0.41) and who had no job (M=4.07, SD=0.55), t(93)=2.14, p<0.05; also between participants who had multiple incarcerations (M=4.13, SD=0.52) and who had not (M=4.39, SD=0.27), t(60)= -3.091, p<0.01.

Logistic regression analysis shows employment is the only variable that can explain the differences in recidivism (recidivated or not) after controlling for substance abuse and trauma experiences (OR=4.75, 95% CI: 1.41-15.99).

Implications:Study results suggest that these young fathers have several risk factors (e.g., poor work trajectories and behavioral health challenges), and that those risk factors may impact father-child relationships. More research is needed to better understand the impact of these risk factors. Several dimensions of employment surfaced as important predictors of father-child relationships and recidivism. Because pre-trial detention disrupts employment, the use of lengthy pretrial incarceration could have consequences beyond the father and both policy and programming shifts that could mitigate that impact should be considered.