Published: February 13, 2020


Parental imprisonment is a significant childhood trauma that is linked to a wide range of adverse life course outcomes, including homelessness, poor education, anti-social behaviour, substance abuse, physical and mental health issues, and poverty.

Recent studies have also found associations between parental imprisonment and risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV/AIDs, chlamydia, and gonorrhea. This association is the focus of a new Life Course Centre Working paper that examines the relationship between childhood parental imprisonment and STIs later in life.

The paper, authored by Dr Michael Roettger and Dr Brian Houle of the School of Demography at The Australian National University, investigates the relationship between parental imprisonment in childhood and the risk of STIs among US adults in early and mid-adulthood. The analysis examines patterns by age, gender of parent and child, and ethnicity.

It finds that both mother and father imprisonment is similarly linked with increased lifetime reports of being diagnosed with an STI. This risk increased among women and minority groups. For example, 10% of non-black males with no history of parental imprisonment reported ever having an STI, while 62% of black females with a history of parental imprisonment reported ever having an STI. The longitudinal analysis suggests that increased STI risk is a life course event linked with later life health issues, and may act as a mechanism through which parental imprisonment is associated with later health issues.

You can read the full Working Paper, ‘Examining the Relationship between Parental Imprisonment in Childhood and Risk of Sexually Transmitted Infections among US Adults in Early and Mid-Adulthood,’ here.