Impact of adult sons' incarceration on African American mothers' psychological distress

Kerry M. Green, Margaret E. Ensminger, Judith A. Robertson, Hee Soon Juon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


This longitudinal study examines the effect of sons' incarceration on their mothers' psychological distress. Interviews were conducted over the life course with a community cohort of African American mothers who had children in first grade in 1966 - 1967 when the study began (N = 615). Thirty years later, their sons had significant rates of incarceration (22.4%). Structural equation modeling showed that the more recent the incarceration, the greater the mothers' psychological distress, even controlling for earlier socioeconomic status and psychological well-being. Financial difficulties and greater burden of grandparenting are associated with having a son incarcerated and they mediate the relationship between the incarceration and a mother's psychological distress. Results suggest that incarceration has important effects on family members' well-being.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)430-441
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Marriage and Family
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • African American families
  • Incarceration
  • Mothers
  • Psychological distress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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