Trauma exposure, posttraumatic stress, and psychiatric comorbidity in female juvenile offenders

J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2005 Aug;44(8):798-806. doi: 10.1097/01.chi.0000164590.48318.9c.


Objective: To document the rate of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in female juvenile offenders and its relationship to trauma history, comorbid diagnoses, attributional style, and family functioning.

Method: The psychological profiles and trauma histories of 100 incarcerated female juvenile offenders (ages 13.5-19 years) were assessed using a semistructured interview. Two self-report measures were used to assess family functioning and attributional style.

Results: High rates of PTSD were reported by offenders (37%), with sexual abuse the precipitant in 70% of cases. Offenders with PTSD had significantly more comorbid diagnoses than those without (PTSD = 5.4, no PTSD = 3.1, p < .001). The majority (73%) of comorbid diagnoses appeared concurrently with or after PTSD onset. The presence of four or more psychiatric diagnoses (OR = 14.48, p < .001) and a history of sexual abuse (OR = 7.91, p < .001) were independently associated with a diagnosis of PTSD among female juvenile offenders.

Conclusions: These results suggest a link among trauma, PTSD, and the development of further psychopathology in female juvenile offenders. This link highlights the importance of comprehensive diagnosis and treatment of this and other comorbid disorders to ensure the effectiveness of interventions designed to treat antisocial behavior.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / psychology
  • Comorbidity
  • Conduct Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Juvenile Delinquency*
  • Life Change Events*
  • Prevalence
  • Prisoners*
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders
  • Violence*