Female Children of Inmates Are at Greater Risk for TBI in Adulthood

New research suggests that female children of inmates may be at greater risk for lifelong neurological problems.

Conducted by researchers at the University of Delaware’s College of Health Sciences, the secondary analysis, led by Kathleen Brewer-Smyth, PhD, MSN, revealed that female inmates with at least one adult incarcerated family member during childhood were more than twice as likely to have neurological abnormalities than fellow inmates who had no incarcerated family members.

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The researchers analyzed data from 135 adult female prison inmates in the mid-Atlantic United States. Out of the inmates included in the report, 99 (60%) had one or more incarcerated adult family members during childhood. The article was published by Health Care for Women International.

After examining the results of regression analyses, the investigators learned that having incarcerated adult family members was related to higher frequency and severity of childhood abuse, and greater incidence of neurological deficits in adulthood (especially with regard to traumatic brain injuries). 

Some experienced exposure to lead or other toxins, stroke, seizures, central nervous system (CNS) infection, CNS tumor, having been the product of a complicated pregnancy and delivery, migraines, surviving cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, being struck by lightning, loss of consciousness such as due to choking, myasthenia gravis, and/or having undergone a neurosurgical procedure.

“These conditions can lead to behavior and numerous other problems that can result in a prison sentence,” Dr Brewer-Smyth said in a statement.


Brewer-Smyth K, Phlig RT, Bucurescu G, et al. Female children with incarcerated adult family members at risk for lifelong neurological decline. Health Care Women Int. 2016. doi:10.1080/07399332.2016.1140768.