Children Exposed to the Arrest of a Family Member: Associations with Mental Health



Yvonne Humenay Roberts, Frank J. Snyder, Joy S. Kaufman, Meghan K. Finley, Amy Griffin, Janet Anderson, Tim Marshall, Susan Radway, Virginia Stack, Cindy A. Crusto

Journal of Child and Family Studies

February 2014, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 214-224



The arrest of a parent or other family member can be detrimental to childrenís health. To study the impact of exposure to the arrest of a family member on childrenís mental health and how said association may change across developmental periods, we examined baseline data for children (birth through 11 years) entering family-based systems of care (SOC). Children exposed to the arrest of a family member had experienced significantly more 5.38 (SD = 2.59) different types of potentially traumatic events (PTE) than children not exposed to arrest 2.84 (SD = 2.56). Multiple regression model results showed that arrest exposure was significantly associated with greater behavioral and emotional challenges after controlling for childrenís age, gender, race/ethnicity, household income, caregiverís education, parenting factors, and other PTE exposure. Further analyses revealed differences in internalizing and externalizing behaviors associated with arrest exposure across developmental levels. This study highlights some of the mental health challenges for children exposed to the arrest of a family member, while adding to our knowledge of how such an event affects children across different developmental periods. More trauma-informed, developmentally appropriate systems need to be in place at all levels to assist children and families experiencing arrest.