Contact between incarcerated parents and their children is an emotional topic! Most incarcerated parents say that separation from their children is the most difficult part of being in prison or jail, and having contact with their children can help ease their pain.
During parental incarceration, most parents stay in contact with their children one way or another. Telephone contact is the most common form of contact, with letters and visits less common. Less than half of incarcerated parents receive regular visits from their children, whereas for others, visits are rare or not regular.
Although opinions abound about whether or not children of different ages should visit their parents in jail or prison, very little research has been conducted that actually documents children’s reactions to visits with their incarcerated parents. My research team recently completed 2 studies documenting young children’s reactions to such visits. We found that Plexiglas visits were more likely to be associated with children’s negative behaviors compared to visits that were face-to-face contact visits or video visits. Yet for all visit types, the vast majority of children connected with their incarcerated parents in positive ways.