Posttraumatic stress disorder and trauma in youth in juvenile detention

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2004 Apr;61(4):403-10. doi: 10.1001/archpsyc.61.4.403.


Objective: To determine prevalence estimates of exposure to trauma and 12-month rates of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) 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 PTSD module of the Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children, version IV (DISC-IV), 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 898 African American, non-Hispanic white, and Hispanic youth (532 males, 366 females, aged 10-18 years) arrested and newly detained.

Main outcome measures: Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children, version IV.

Results: Most participants (92.5%) had experienced 1 or more traumas (mean, 14.6 incidents; median, 6 incidents). Significantly more males (93.2%) than females (84.0%) reported at least 1 traumatic experience; 11.2% of the sample met criteria for PTSD in the past year. More than half of the participants with PTSD reported witnessing violence as the precipitating trauma.

Conclusion: Trauma and PTSD seem to be more prevalent among juvenile detainees than in community samples. We recommend directions for research and discuss implications for mental health policy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior*
  • Child
  • Epidemiologic Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Juvenile Delinquency*
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Prisons
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology*
  • Wounds and Injuries / psychology