New research shows that five years after serving time in a juvenile correction facility, more than 45 percent of males and nearly 30 percent of females had one or more psychiatric disorders.
“Although prevalence rates dropped over time, some disorders were three times more prevalent than in the general population,” said Linda A. Teplin, Ph.D., of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and lead author of a paper published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.
The Northwestern Juvenile Project studied 1,829 people — 1,172 males and 657 females — who were between the ages of 10 and 18 when they were first interviewed at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center in Chicago. The participants were re-interviewed as many as four times and up to five years later.
The researchers found that substance use disorders, including both alcohol and illicit drugs, are the most prevalent and persistent psychiatric disorder. They also found that males are two to three times more likely to have drug or alcohol use disorders than females.
“These findings demonstrate the need for special programs — especially for substance use disorders — not only while these kids are in corrections but also when they return to the community,” Teplin said.
“People think these kids are locked up forever, but the average stay is only two weeks,” she continued. “Obviously, it’s better to provide community services than to build correctional facilities. Otherwise, the lack of services perpetuates the revolving door between the community and corrections.”
Teplin noted that non-Hispanic whites had the highest rates of substance use disorders and dependence, followed by Hispanics, then African-Americans.
“This is exactly the opposite of the patterns of incarceration,” she said, noting that in 2010, African-American males were incarcerated at seven times and Hispanic males at nearly three times the rate of white males.
The study also showed substance use disorders drop more dramatically for girls than boys as they age.
“We’ve done a great job developing special programs for delinquent girls,” Teplin said. “Now we need to focus on boys.”
Males comprise 85 percent of the youths in correctional facilities and 70 percent of juvenile arrests.
Many of the youths in detention “aren’t bad kids, they’re just poor and may not receive needed services,” Teplin said. “Wealthier parents may be able to afford drug treatment for their kids. But poor kids may instead end up in the juvenile justice system. It’s often socioeconomic disadvantage that lands these kids in detention.”
Source: Northwestern University