How Does Addiction Recovery and Incarceration Affect Parenting?


According to the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP), 1 in 100 of U.S. citizens are now confined in jail or prison, and 80% of offenders abuse drugs or alcohol. Nearly 50% of jail or prison inmates are clinically addicted, and 60% of those arrested test positive for illicit drugs at arrest; addiction and incarceration are major combinations in the United States, and can have great effects both in – and out of – jail or prison, including parenting. With this type of situation occurring often, there are many children out there missing out on precious years with parents, many times experiencing abuse, neglect, and more.

Substance use disorders (SUDs) alone greatly affect parenting – a study conducted by researchers from West Virginia highlighted the fact that in these circumstances, children are often more prone to experience anxiety, depression, stress, greater susceptibility to trauma, and other mental illnesses. In addition, many children have to take on adult responsibilities to help maintain the family’s equilibrium – this may be done by cleaning up after a parent’s mess, working to pay bills and ensure the house is maintained, caring for other siblings, and more. Some children adapt the perceptions of their parents, going on to continue their own abuse of substances and, later, experience further abuse, legal problems, and addiction because of it.

When a parent is incarcerated and recovering from addiction, children may face staying in foster care or distant relatives if both parents are unavailable. A 2015 study published in the journal Substance Abuse Rehabilitation expressed that parental incarceration can affect children in a number of ways (this isn’t the complete list):

  • These children are more likely to exhibit conduct disorders than their peers
  • For adolescent males, parental incarceration has been shown to be associated with increased theft and marijuana use
  • More negative, disruptive behaviors in the classroom
  • Greater chance of dropping out of high school
  • Lower standardized test scores
  • Self-imposed isolation due to stigma
  • Pre-mature adulthood due to taking care of responsibilities that would originally have been taken care of by parents

As you can see, children are significantly impacted by what goes on in the home. SUDs and incarceration only place greater risk of children being hindered in their ability to thrive. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction or mental illness, seek the help you need today. Don’t let this negative cycle continue any longer.

Simple Recovery is a world-renowned, California state-licensed substance abuse recovery center. We offer dual diagnosis treatment, so if you are experiencing both substance abuse and symptoms of a mental disorder, call us today at 888-743-0490 so that we can work with you to restore your happiness, health, and well-being. You do not have to continue living this way; there are many people here ready to help you.