Association Between Caregiver Stress and Behavioral Problems in the Children of Incarcerated Fathers in Hong Kong

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4 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives Caregivers of children with incarcerated parents have received little attention in the literature, though they face unique incarceration-related challenges. General caregiver research has highlighted associations between caregiver distress and children’s behavioral problems, even implying that the depressive tendencies of caregivers can be ‘transmitted’. The current study investigated the applicability of this notion to caregivers responsible for children of incarcerated fathers. Methods Fifty-four female caregivers of children with incarcerated parents were recruited via collaboration with a non-governmental organization. Their levels of stress and depression were measured using questionnaires, as were the behavioral problems of children under their care. The relationships between the variables were examined. Results The results firstly suggest that these caregivers are vulnerable to psychological distress, with around 57 % of them suffering from borderline to severe depression. Obtained socio-demographic characteristics were not found to have any bearing on the psychosocial functioning of caregivers or children—rather, all psychosocial variables were interlinked, and further analyses revealed that the depression of caregivers mediated the relationship between their perceived stress and internalizing/externalizing behavioral problems of the child (β = .628 and β = .468 respectively), implicating depression as a mechanism via which adversity can be transferred from a caregiver to a child. Conclusions Increasing the focus on a caregiver’s mental health may be an efficacious strategy in research and practice, perhaps by providing more support for caregivers and implementing joint caregiver-child interventions to more holistically alleviate problems in families affected by parental incarceration. Limitations of the current study and further recommendations are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2074-2083
Number of pages10
JournalMaternal and Child Health Journal
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Caregivers
  • Child internalizing and externalizing behavioral problems
  • Depression
  • Parental incarceration
  • Transmission

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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