Sociology Ph.D. Dissertations


Parental Incarceration, Identity, and Adult Children's Antisocial Behavior

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Monica Longmore (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Wendy Watson (Other)

Third Advisor

Peggy Giordano (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Wendy Manning (Committee Member)

Fifth Advisor

Raymond Swisher (Committee Member)


Although parental incarceration is associated with adolescent and adult children's antisocial activity, the underlying mechanisms explaining this association have not been fully examined. I assessed whether parental incarceration was associated with identifying as a troublemaker/partier during adolescence and, subsequently, young adulthood. I also examined identity as a mediator in the association between parental incarceration and general antisocial behavior, instrumental crime, and arrest during young adulthood. For each of these analyses, I also examined whether the importance of parents' approval moderated the influence of parental incarceration. For all young adult outcomes, I separately assessed the influence of maternal and paternal incarceration. Lastly, I examined the direct and indirect effects of parental incarceration on antisocial behavior and instrumental crime during young adulthood using structural equation modeling. For my theoretical lens, I drew on labeling theory and the integrated psychosocial model of criminal social identity. I used longitudinal data from the Toledo Adolescent Relationships Study (TARS) (n = 1,321) and official incarceration records. Parental incarceration was positively associated with identifying as a troublemaker/partier during adolescence and young adulthood, but only for those for whom parental approval was important. Parental incarceration was positively associated with adults' behavioral outcomes, and identifying as a troublemaker/partier, in part, mediated these associations. I also found that maternal, compared to no maternal, incarceration exhibited a strong positive effect, whereas paternal, compared to no paternal, incarceration was not as strong or consistent of an effect. Analyses also provided evidence that maternal incarceration only influenced behavior among young adults who desired parental approval. Finally, structural equation models illustrated that parental incarceration indirectly influenced young adults' involvement in antisocial behavior and instrumental crime through identifying as a troublemaker/partier during adulthood.