Special Needs of the Juvenile Justice Population

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A study by the Northwestern Juvenile Project (Teplin et al. 2002) surveyed juvenile detainees within the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center. A total of 1,829 subjects, ages 10–18 years, were evaluated using the Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children (DISC). Females and minorities were oversampled to assure sufficient numbers. Nearly two-thirds of males and three-quarters of females met diagnostic criteria for one or more psychiatric disorders—higher than the rates for youth in the general population, which are estimated to be between 6% and 38%. When conduct disorder was excluded because of the overlap with delinquent behavior, prevalence rates decreased only slightly. The most common disorders among both males and females were substance abuse (51% for males and 47% for females) and disruptive behaviors (oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder, 41% of males and 46% of females). Of all respondents, 93% reported at least one trauma, with 11% of participants meeting criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) within the last year. Females were significantly more likely to be diagnosed with a mood or anxiety disorder. In females, 22% met criteria for major depressive disorder (13% of males) and 31% met criteria for an anxiety disorder, with separation anxiety being the most common. Overall, females were more likely than males to have two or more disorders. There were also racial differences in prevalence rates of disorders, with non-Hispanic white males having the highest rates of disorders (82%) and African Americans the lowest rates (65%). When this was broken down, African Americans and Hispanic males had higher rates than non-Hispanic whites of both affective disorders and anxiety disorders, whereas non-Hispanic whites had higher rates of substance abuse, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and disruptive behaviors. Among females, there was less variation in prevalence rates between ethnic groups. Females across all races had significantly higher rates of single and comorbid disorders, including depression, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse.

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