Contributors to traumatic exposure and posttraumatic stress disorder in juvenile justice youths

J Trauma Stress. 2011 Aug;24(4):422-9. doi: 10.1002/jts.20664. Epub 2011 Jul 28.


This study considers demographic, offense, and disorder contributors to exposure and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in a large (N = 9,611) dataset of standardized psychiatric assessments resulting from nationwide collaborations with justice agencies. Youths' antisocial history may elevate risk for traumatic exposure and PTSD; additionally, traumatic victimization increases risk for externalizing behavior. Rates of all types of traumatic exposure and PTSD were clearly elevated and expectably related to disorder and antisocial behavior. Males were significantly more likely than females to report assaultive violence, whereas females were significantly more likely than males to report forced sexual activity. Gender interactions with disorder and antisocial behavior were contributory only in predicting forced sexual activity: females' exposure was not conditional on features characterizing males' exposure. Findings highlight the high levels of trauma exposure at all levels of juvenile justice processing, and the particular vulnerability of males with internalizing psychopathology. Consistent with increased recent interest in the diagnosis of developmental trauma disorder, and given the likely interconnectedness between traumatic exposure and externalizing symptoms, treatment approaches for justice youths should address their co-occurrence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Databases, Factual
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interview, Psychological
  • Juvenile Delinquency / psychology*
  • Male
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / etiology*
  • Wounds and Injuries / epidemiology
  • Wounds and Injuries / etiology*