Wakefield’s research and teaching is focused on the consequences of the prison boom for families, with an emphasis on childhood wellbeing and family functioning. Her recent work examines how the incarceration of a father increases mental health and behavioral problems among their children. This line of work also draws connections between massive increases in the prison population over the last four decades and harms for a generation of vulnerable children – in this case, the prison boom has contributed to a widening gap in wellbeing between black and white children. In other work, Wakefield is an investigator on a multi-disciplinary, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development-funded (Research Program Project) study of human capital interventions during childhood and adolescence. Her research is focused on the congruence (or “fit”) between substance use prevention policies and the developmental needs of children and youth.