Paternal incarceration has consistently been linked with aggression and acting-out in children, yet mechanisms underlying these behavioral problems remain unclear. Identifying these paths is essential for understanding how incarceration contributes to intergenerational disadvantage and determining how best to mitigate these collateral consequences for children. This article tests the extent to which changes incarceration imposes on children’s families after incarceration fill this important gap. Two key findings emerge from structural equation models using the longitudinal Fragile Families study. First, changes occurring within the child’s family account for nearly half of the total association between recent paternal incarceration and aggressive or externalizing behavior. Second, the father’s disengagement from the family and increased material hardship are the strongest and most consistent mechanisms. These findings suggest that targeting these two co-occurring hardships that families face when an incarceration occurs may be valuable for addressing child behavior. (Author abstract)
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