Comorbidity Among Detained Females: Implications for Policy in the Juvenile Justice and Mental Health Systems

Linda A. Teplin, Northwestern University Medical School
Gary M. McClelland, Northwestern University Medical School
Karen M. Abram, Northwestern University Medical School

ABSTRACT
The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that there are 2.8 million juvenile arrests each year, and more than 108,000 youth are in custody in juvenile facilities. Female arrest and detention rates are growing faster than those for males. The literature suggests that many detained females have psychiatric disorders with most of these having comorbid substance abuse/dependence disorders as well. However, there are few empirical data on comorbidity among detained females. We will present data from the Northwestern Juvenile Project, a large-scale study of psychiatric disorders among detained youth. Our sample includes 1829 randomly selected juvenile detainees; 1172 males and 657 females, ages 10-18. The paper will compare rates of psychiatric disorders and comorbidity in male and female detainees. Data indicate that over two-thirds of the subjects have one or more psychiatric disorders. In general, females have higher rates of disturbance than males. As in the general population, rates of depression are higher among females than among males. Nearly 50% of the sample qualifies for a DSM-IIIR diagnosis of substance abuse or dependence. These findings, and others which will be presented, have profound implications for gender-specific services provided within the juvenile justice system and in the community.

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Updated 05/20/2006