Prevalence and persistence of psychiatric disorders in youth after detention: a prospective longitudinal study

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2012 Oct;69(10):1031-43. doi: 10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2011.2062.


Context: Psychiatric disorders are prevalent among incarcerated juveniles. Most juveniles eventually return to their communities, where they become the responsibility of the community mental health system. However, no large-scale study has examined psychiatric disorders after youth leave detention.

Objective: To examine changes in the prevalence and persistence of psychiatric disorders during the 5 years after detention, focusing on sex and racial/ethnic differences.

Design: Prospective longitudinal study with up to 5 interviews (1829 youth: 1172 males and 657 females). To ensure representation of key demographic subgroups, the randomly selected sample was stratified by sex, race/ethnicity (African American, non-Hispanic white, and Hispanic), age, and legal status (juvenile or adult court).

Setting: The Northwestern Juvenile Project, sampling youth from the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, Chicago, Illinois.

Participants: Detained youth, aged 10 to 18 years at baseline interview.

Main outcome measures: At baseline, the Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children Version 2.3. At follow-up interviews, the Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children Version IV (Child and Young Adult versions) and the Diagnostic Interview Schedule Version IV (substance use disorders and antisocial personality disorder).

Results: Five years after baseline, more than 45% of males and nearly 30% of females had 1 or more psychiatric disorders with associated impairment. More than 50% of males and more than 40% of females had 1 or more psychiatric disorders without impairment. Substance use disorders were the most common; males, however, had higher rates over time (5 years after baseline, adjusted odds ratio [AOR], 2.61; 95% CI, 1.96-3.47). Non-Hispanic whites and Hispanics also had higher rates of substance use disorders vs African Americans (AOR, 1.96; 95% CI, 1.54-2.49 and AOR, 1.59; 95% CI, 1.24-2.03). Females had higher rates of major depression over time (AOR, 1.59; 95% CI, 1.22-2.08).

Conclusions: Although prevalence rates of most psychiatric disorders declined as youth aged, a substantial proportion of delinquent youth continue to have disorders. There are notable sex and racial/ethnic differences in the prevalence and persistence of psychiatric disorders in this population.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • 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
  • African Americans / ethnology
  • Child
  • European Continental Ancestry Group / ethnology
  • Female
  • Hispanic Americans / ethnology
  • Humans
  • Illinois / epidemiology
  • Juvenile Delinquency / ethnology*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Prevalence
  • Prisoners / psychology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Time Factors