Worldwide, unprecedented numbers of people are being imprisoned and in many countries incarceration is on the increase (Walmsley, 2009); indeed 'more parents than ever are behind bars' (Murray et al., 2012) and each year, an estimated 800,000 children within the newly-expanded European Union are separated from an incarcerated parent.
Despite this, the psychosocial impact on children is little known and rarely considered in sentencing even though the evidence to date suggests that children whose parents are imprisoned are exposed to triple jeopardy through break-up of the family, financial hardship, stigma and secrecy, leading to adverse social and educational repercussions.
The rationale for the study of the impact of parental imprisonment is underscored by the findings of a recent meta-analysis of studies of children of prisoners (Murray et al. 2012). This systematic review synthesized empirical evidence on the associations between parental incarceration and children's later behavioural, educational and health outcomes from 40 studies involving a total of over 7,000 children of prisoners.