Observational Jail Studies

Children of incarcerated parents are at risk for cognitive delays, internalizing (e.g., depression), and externalizing problems (e.g., delinquency). Visits during the parent’s incarceration have the potential to reduce these risks. With funding from the UMN Office of the Vice President for Research, our team used an observational protocol (designed for visits with children between 2-6 years) developed by Dr. Julie Poehlmann-Tynan at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and adapted it for older children and adolescents (7-17 years). We examined the visit quality as a potential protective factor, and studied associations between children’s developmental outcomes and characteristics of their jailed parents.

In a second study, jointly funded by the University of Minnesota Clinical & Translational Science Institute and University of Wisconsin Institute for Clinical & Translational Research, we implemented an intervention utilizing the Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration materials designed for children of incarcerated parents.

Relevant Links:

University of Wisconsin-Madison News, "Sesame Workshop Materials Help Families Affected by Incarceration", https://news.wisc.edu/sesame-workshop-materials-help-families-affected-by-incarceration. (June 2020)


Selected Publications:


Poehlmann-Tynan, J., Cuthrell, H., Weymouth, L., Burnson, C., Frerks, L., Muentner, L., ... & Shlafer, R. (2021). Multisite randomized efficacy trial of educational materials for young children with incarcerated parents. Development and Psychopathology, 33(1), 323-339.



Shlafer, R. J., Davis, L., Hindt, L., Weymouth, L., Cuthrell, H., Burnson, C., & Poehlmann-Tynan, J. (2020). Fathers in Jail and their Minor Children: Paternal Characteristics and Associations with Father-Child Contact. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 29(3), 791-801.