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Multisite randomized efficacy trial of educational materials for young children with incarcerated parents

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 May 2020

Julie Poehlmann-Tynan
Affiliation:
Department of Human Development and Family Studies, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Madison, WI, USA
Hilary Cuthrell
Affiliation:
Department of Human Development and Family Studies, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Madison, WI, USA
Lindsay Weymouth
Affiliation:
Department of Human Development and Family Studies, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Madison, WI, USA
Cynthia Burnson
Affiliation:
Department of Human Development and Family Studies, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Madison, WI, USA
Lexi Frerks
Affiliation:
Department of Human Development and Family Studies, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Madison, WI, USA
Luke Muentner
Affiliation:
Department of Human Development and Family Studies, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Madison, WI, USA
Nicole Holder
Affiliation:
Department of Human Development and Family Studies, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Madison, WI, USA
Zoe Milavetz
Affiliation:
Department of Human Development and Family Studies, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Madison, WI, USA
Lauren Lauter
Affiliation:
Department of Human Development and Family Studies, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Madison, WI, USA
Lauren Hindt
Affiliation:
Department of Psychology, Loyola University, Chicago, IL, USA
Laurel Davis
Affiliation:
Division of Adolescent Health and Medicine, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, Minneapolis, MN, USA
Erin Schubert
Affiliation:
Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, Minneapolis, MN, USA
Rebecca Shlafer
Affiliation:
Department of Pediatrics, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, Minneapolis, MN, USA
Corresponding

Abstract

Although children with incarcerated parents exhibit more behavior problems, health concerns, and academic difficulties than their peers, few interventions or resources are available to support affected children. This randomized, controlled, multisite efficacy trial evaluated Sesame Street’s "Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration" initiative with children aged 3 to 8 years with a jailed father. Seventy-one diverse children and their caregivers were randomized to an educational outreach group (n = 32) or wait list control group (n = 39). Researchers observed children during jail visits and interviewed caregivers by phone 2 and 4 weeks later. The effects of the intervention on children’s behavior and emotions occurring during a jail visit depended on what children had been told about the father’s incarceration. Children who were told honest, developmentally appropriate explanations showed less negative affect at entry, an increase in negative affect when the intervention was administered, and a decrease in negative affect during the visit. Intervention group children who were told distortions, nothing, or explanations that were not developmentally appropriate showed more negative affect initially, and their negative affect remained relatively stable during their time in the jail. In addition, children who were told the simple, honest truth about the parent’s incarceration (a recommendation in the educational materials) exhibited more positive affect during the visit, with a medium effect size. Caregivers in the educational outreach group reported more positive change in how they talked to children about the incarceration over time compared to the control group.

Type
Regular Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2020

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