The findings published in the journal 'JAMA' found that children whose parents were incarcerated are more likely to encounter significant hurdles transitioning into adulthood, including being charged with a felony (35 per cent vs. 11.5 per cent), dropping out of high school (25.5 per cent vs. 5.0 per cent), becoming a teenage parent (14.3 per cent vs. 2.8 per cent), experiencing financial strain (37.2 per cent vs. 17.5 per cent), and being socially isolated (24.5 per cent vs. 9.4 per cent).
"The increased risk for adverse adult outcomes remained after accounting for childhood psychiatric status and other adversities, suggesting that parental incarceration is associated with profound and long-lasting effects for children," said study co-author William E. Copeland of the University of Vermont, who conducted the research while at Duke University of Sanford.
The risk still remained no matter whether the parent was biologically related to their child or not.
"Risk for adverse adult outcomes increased further with each additional incarcerated parent figure," added Copeland.
Researchers analyzed the data collected between 1993 and 2015 on the life experiences of children from the Appalachian Mountains in western North Carolina from age 9 until age 30.
They also interviewed families as many as eight times during childhood. Using those methods, researchers identified a higher prevalence of incarceration by parental figures (23.9 per cent) than the 8 to 11 per cent previously documented in other population-based studies.
Even more, incarceration rates for parental figures were higher among racial and ethnic minorities 47.9 per cent among American Indians and 42.7 per cent among African-Americans, compared with 21.4 per cent among whites.
Parental incarceration cases overwhelmingly involved fathers (87.9 per cent).
"Our findings point to the potentially high societal costs of incarcerating children's caregivers -- potentially for generations to come," said lead author Beth Gifford of Duke University and Copeland.