Childhood sexual abuse, gender, and depression among incarcerated youth

Int J Offender Ther Comp Criminol. 2004 Dec;48(6):683-96. doi: 10.1177/0306624X04264459.


This study examined whether sexual abuse was related to higher levels of psychological distress among incarcerated youth and if the effects were invariant across gender. Participants were male and female adolescents, aged 11 to 20 years, incarcerated in six juvenile correctional institutions in five states. Using data from a national study of juveniles confined to secure institutions, this study assessed the relationship between gender, sexual abuse, and depression. Adolescents who were sexually abused during childhood compared to adolescents who were not report higher levels of depression. Sexually abused girls and boys report higher levels of depression compared to boys not sexually abused. These findings suggest the importance of understanding the relationship between childhood sexual abuse and depressive symptoms among incarcerated youth. Additionally, the findings suggest that the effects of childhood sexual abuse are similar for males and females among a high-risk sample of institutionalized juvenile delinquents. Implications for treatment of incarcerated youth are discussed.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / psychology*
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / statistics & numerical data*
  • Commitment of Mentally Ill*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prisoners / psychology*
  • Prisoners / statistics & numerical data*