Purpose: The study surveyed adolescents in juvenile detention facilities to determine the incidence of health risk behaviors.
Methods: A modified version of the United States Centers for Disease Control Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System was administered to 1801 minors at 39 facilities in the United States.
Results: Risky behavior begins early, the initiation plateauing at age 15 or 16 years. Girls and boys reported comparable rates of drinking, binge drinking, and illicit drug use. North American Natives and those individuals who designated themselves as being other than any of the offered choices for racial designation ("Other") began drinking at earlier ages, had more binge drinking, more illegal drug use, and the most fight-related behavior. By age 12 years 62% reported onset of sexual intercourse and by age 14 years 89% were sexually active. Fighting was reported by 69% of detainees. Fight-related injuries within the past year were reported by 25% of the respondents. Nearly 47% belonged to a gang. Drug/alcohol use, fighting, and gang membership were related. Suicide was considered by 22% of the detainees, planned by 20%, tried by 16%, 8% were injured because of a suicide attempt. Younger teens (White, N.A. Natives, and "Other") had the most frequent suicide ideation. Drug/alcohol use correlated with suicidal thoughts. Onset of sexual intercourse was at an average age of 12. Multiple partners and pregnancy, was highest among blacks and "Others". Blacks had the highest sexually transmitted disease (STD) rate. Less than half of all respondents used condoms at last intercourse. STDs were related to being female, being black, and having multiple sexual partners. Pregnancy was related to multiple sexual partners and violent behavior.
Conclusion: Male and female detainees report a high incidence and early onset of risky behaviors. N.A. Natives and those of "other" races reported the highest incidence of risk behaviors.