Researcher and Associate Professor Kate Luther released a study in 2016 titled “Stigma Management among Children of Incarcerated Parents,” (read her findings at  Her work identified three distinct issues children face who have a family member who is incarcerated, namely, spoiled identity, courtesy stigma, and an identity in contrast. 

Spoiled identity is a term first coined in an earlier study which showed the social stigma of incarceration extends beyond the criminal to the family members, and can spoil the family member’s identity, even if the family member is a child, (Goffman, 1963).  Courtesy stigma refers to the shared stigma attached to an innocent family member, like when that stigma jumps from the parent to the child, even though the child did nothing wrong.  Creating an identity in contrast is a coping mechanism of a child to create an identity independent from the incarcerated parent to help separate the child from the actions of the parent who committed the crime.

Children cannot be expected to manage the complex emotions which accompany spoiled identity and courtesy stigma.  They need guidance to create an identity in contrast to their loved one who has made poor choices.  These children need help to cope with this new normal while still making good choices for themselves.  They must be taught to manage their emotions and stress in ways that do not get them into trouble.

Extended Family for Kids (EFK) helps children with each of these issues through an evidence-based curriculum of nine lessons for students grades kindergarten through 12 who have any loved one incarcerated.  Surveys after EFK programs consistently show that students who participate display increases in self-esteem, sense of belonging, social involvement with peers, and self-worth/confidence levels.  These benefits carry over into other aspects of the children’s lives and positively impact their behavior, decision making, and academic performance.For more information on how to bring Extended Family for Kids into your community, visit our website, and click on “Book Us” or contact Laure Clemons at

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