Objective: To estimate 6-month prevalence of comorbid psychiatric disorders among juvenile detainees by demographic subgroups (sex, race/ethnicity, and age).
Design: Epidemiologic study of juvenile detainees. Master's level clinical research interviewers administered the Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children Version 2.3 to randomly selected detainees.
Setting: A large temporary detention center for juveniles in Cook County, Illinois (which includes Chicago and surrounding suburbs).
Participants: Randomly selected, stratified sample of 1829 African American, non-Hispanic white, and Hispanic youth (1172 males, 657 females, aged 10-18 years) arrested and newly detained.
Main outcome measure: Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children.
Results: Significantly more females (56.5%) than males (45.9%) met criteria for 2 or more of the following disorders: major depressive, dysthymic, manic, psychotic, panic, separation anxiety, overanxious, generalized anxiety, obsessive-compulsive, attention-deficit/hyperactivity, conduct, oppositional defiant, alcohol, marijuana, and other substance; 17.3% of females and 20.4% of males had only one disorder. We also examined types of disorder: affective, anxiety, substance use, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity or behavioral. The odds of having comorbid disorders were higher than expected by chance for most demographic subgroups, except when base rates of disorders were already high or when cell sizes were small. Nearly 14% of females and 11% of males had both a major mental disorder (psychosis, manic episode, or major depressive episode) and a substance use disorder. Compared with participants with no major mental disorder (the residual category), those with a major mental disorder had significantly greater odds (1.8-4.1) of having substance use disorders. Nearly 30% of females and more than 20% of males with substance use disorders had major mental disorders. Rates of some types of comorbidity were higher among non-Hispanic whites and older adolescents.
Conclusions: Comorbid psychiatric disorders are a major health problem among detained youth. We recommend directions for research and discuss how to improve treatment and reduce health disparities in the juvenile justice and mental health systems.