Health Care Access and Use Among Children & Adolescents Exposed to Parental Incarceration—United States, 2019

Rohan Khazanchi*, Nia J. Heard-Garris, Tyler N.A. Winkelman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Objective: The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, with spillover impacts on 5 million children with an incarcerated parent. Children exposed to parental incarceration (PI) have suboptimal health care access, use, and outcomes in adulthood compared to their peers. However, little is known about their access and utilization during childhood. We evaluated relationships between PI and health care use and access throughout childhood and adolescence. Methods: We analyzed the nationally representative 2019 National Health Interview Survey Child Sample to examine cross-sectional associations between exposure to incarceration of a residential caregiver, access to care, and health care use among children aged 2–17. Respondents were asked about measures of preventive care access, unmet needs due to cost, and acute care use over the last year. We estimated changes associated with PI exposure using multiple logistic regression models adjusted for age, sex, race, ethnicity, parental education, family structure, rurality, income, insurance status, and disability. Results: Of 7405 sample individuals, 467 (weighted 6.2% [95% CI 5.5–6.9]) were exposed to PI. In adjusted analyses to produce national estimates, exposure to PI was associated with an additional 2.2 million children lacking a usual source of care, 2 million with forgone dental care needs, 1.2 million with delayed mental health care needs, and 865,000 with forgone mental health care needs. Conclusions: Exposure to PI was associated with worse access to a usual source of care and unmet dental and mental health care needs. Our findings highlight the need for early intervention by demonstrating that these barriers emerge during childhood and adolescence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)464-472
Number of pages9
JournalAcademic Pediatrics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2023


  • access to care
  • adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)
  • health utilization
  • mental health
  • parental incarceration (PI)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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