The health impact on children affected by parental imprisonment

Beresford, Sarah and Loucks, Nancy and Raikes, Ben (2020) The health impact on children affected by parental imprisonment. BMJ Paediatrics Open, 4 (1). e000275. ISSN 2399-9772 (

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Scotland, England and Wales have the highest imprisonment rates in Western Europe. A number of studies have highlighted the devastating impact of parental imprisonment on children. As well as a significant sense of loss, many children experience stigma, social isolation, shame and fear. This underlines the need to use non-custodial measures wherever possible to reduce the disruption and trauma of a parent’s imprisonment. Parental imprisonment can have a negative impact on children’s short-term emotional well-being, as well as their long-term health and social prospects. Women, who are more likely to be primary carers, tend to receive short sentences for non-violent crimes without consideration of the impact on their children. Separation from a mother is particularly traumatic, and children affected often face greater disruption as it is more likely to involve other changes (eg, carer, home and school). Children with imprisoned mothers often reside with grandparents, who may also need practical and financial support