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A Teddy in the Trunk

November 10, 2016

For the past year, psychology and sociology of law, criminality, and deviance major Tiffany Hamidjaja has been conducting research in Professor Shlafer’s lab, focusing on what happens when a child witnesses a parent’s arrest and how to mitigate the psychological trauma associated with this experience.

Portrait: Tiffany Hamidjaja
Tiffany Hamidjaja

It is a critical issue: One in five children are present at a parent’s arrest and children who are present at their parent’s arrest are six times more likely to be incarcerated themselves.

One of the subjects she has focused on are trauma-informed arrest policies, steps that police officers can take to decrease the negative impact of parental arrest on children.

Tiffany’s research last year included calling police departments throughout the Twin Cities metro area about their policies around arrests and children. She discovered that while none of them had any official policies, most were very open to the conversation and asked for educational materials and more information as the research moves forward. This year, she is expanding her research to the whole state.

She says of her undergraduate research experience, “I'm really passionate about this project because we are on the leading edge of research and building a foundation on this topic. One of the best things about our project, and our lab, is that the science translates into policy implications and actually makes a difference."

Tiffany will graduate in 2017 and hopes to pursue a joint PhD/JD program in graduate school.

Samples of the kinds of trauma-informed arrest practices Hamidjaja is researching:
  • Keep a stuffed animal (ex., teddy bear) or snacks (ex., gummy fruit snacks) in the police car
  • When possible, arrest the parent out of the sight of the children (take parent outside before being arrested or move the children into a different room)
  • When possible, postpone parental arrest to a time when a child is not there
  • Use developmentally appropriate language when talking with children
  • Add criteria to arrest databases such as, "Was there a child present at the arrest?" “If yes, please describe/explain the steps made” ( ex., contacted next of kin or social services) that would permit ongoing research and guide future training for officers
Read The Other Side of the Bars for more information on Professor Rebecca Shlafer's child psychology lab where Tiffany Hamidjaja did her research