Objective: We sought to quantify the association between child incarceration in the United States and subsequent adult health outcomes.
Methods: We analyzed National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health data from 1727 adult (Wave IV) participants first incarcerated at age <25 years. Using chi-square tests and multivariate logistic regression models, we compared adult health outcomes (ie, mobility limitations, depressive symptoms, and suicidal thoughts) among those first incarcerated at age ≤14 years, 15 to 17 years, and 18 to 20 years, with those first incarcerated at 21 to 24 years as the reference group.
Results: Of the 1727 participants, 105 (6.7%) were first incarcerated at age ≤14 years ("child incarceration category"), 315 (19.3%) were first incarcerated at 15 to 17 years, 696 (38.5%) were first incarcerated at 18 to 20 years, and 611 (35.6%) were first incarcerated at 21 to 24 years. Those first incarcerated as children (age ≤14 years) were disproportionately black or Hispanic compared with those first incarcerated at 15 to 24 years. Compared with first incarceration at age 21 to 24 years, child incarceration independently predicted adult mobility limitations (adjusted odds ratio [OR], 3.74; P = .001), adult depression (OR, 1.98; P = .034), and adult suicidal thoughts (OR, 4.47; P = .005).
Conclusions: Child incarceration displays even wider sociodemographic disparities than incarceration generally and is associated with even worse adult physical and mental health outcomes.
Keywords: child incarceration; incarcerated youth; juvenile incarceration; youth incarceration.
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