Turney's research investigates the complex and dynamic role of families in creating, maintaining and exacerbating social inequalities. Much of Turney's current research examines the consequences of criminal justice contact for family life. In this vein, she investigates the deleterious, beneficial, and inconsequential effects of criminal justice contact on the wellbeing of children and families over time, considers heterogeneity in the relationship between parental incarceration and family inequality, and evaluates the family, school and neighborhood mechanisms through which parental incarceration fosters resilience among children.
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Finds that children in foster care are in poor mental and physical health relative to children in the general population, children across specific family types, and children in economically disadvantaged families. Shows that children adopted from foster care, compared with children in foster care, have significantly higher odds of having some health problems. Concludes that children in foster care are a vulnerable population in poor health, partially as a result of their early life circumstances.
Examines criminal justice contact —defined as arrest, conviction, and incarceration— and mental health. Shows that arrest is deleteriously associated with mental health, and arrest accounts for nearly half of the association between incarceration and poor mental health. Indicates that criminal justice interactions exacerbate minority health inequalities.
Estimates the relationship between parental incarceration and children's fair or poor overall health, a range of physical and mental health conditions, activity limitations, and chronic school absence. Finds that parental incarceration is independently associated with learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, behavioral or conduct problems, developmental delays, and speech or language problems. Suggests that children's health disadvantages are an overlooked and unintended consequence of mass incarceration.
Estimates the heterogeneous relationship between paternal incarceration and children's problem behaviors and cognitive skills in middle childhood. Reveals that the consequences—across all outcomes except early juvenile delinquency— are more deleterious for children with relatively low risks of exposure to paternal incarceration than for children with relatively high risks of exposure to paternal incarceration. Suggest that the intergenerational consequences of paternal incarceration are more complicated than documented in previous research.