Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology

Hedwig Lee and Angels Bruns Examine Partner Incarceration and Women’s Substance Use

Posted: 2/22/2020 (CSDE Research)

Partner incarceration is an increasingly common experience for Black and Hispanic women. However, existing research on the health and wellbeing of these women is minimal—this is why CSDE Regional Affiliate Hedwig Lee and CSDE Alum Angela Bruns examine partner incarceration and how this is a source of women’s chronic stress and subsequent substance use in a recent study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family. Using data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, Lee and Bruns find a significant association between partner incarceration and drug use, with this association being concentrated among Black women.

Current data demonstrates incarceration as the source of chronic stress for both those who are incarcerated and their family members. Lee and Bruns’ findings specify the collateral consequences of incarceration to Black women and suggest that “incarceration compounds the disadvantages Black women already face in a social system that stratifies access to social goods based on skin color and ethnic origin, which may contribute to health disparities more broadly.” Additionally, drug use as a collateral consequence of incarceration relates to health, social, and economic problems. Lee and Bruns explain intergenerational disadvantage as one such problem, especially for children of Black mothers with incarcerated partners.

Lee and Bruns’ study provides insights into how researchers, policymakers, and healthcare providers can rethink the characteristics of populations at risk of drug use and consider social factors such as partner incarceration to adopt policies and practices that “identify this largely invisible population and to provide appropriate and accessible sources of care.”

Click the link below for the full study, accessible with UW Libraries.

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