Gender Differences in Psychiatric Diagnosis in Incarcerated Youth

Gail A. Wasserman, Columbia University
Larkin McReynolds, Columbia University

Mental health assessments in the juvenile justice system are generally not based on "best practices" for standardized, comprehensive assessment. In earlier work we determined that self-assessments via computerized structured diagnostic interviews (Voice C-DISC/TV) are feasible and yield meaningful prevalence rates for justice system youth. Our earlier work examined rates of psychiatric diagnosis in males at juvenile reception center facilities in Illinois and New Jersey, documenting high levels of mental health need. Current work examines the prevalence of psychiatric disorder in both males and females (125 of each) in South Carolina's Northeast Orientation and Assessment Center. We present findings regarding the presence/absence of general differences in disorder, in diagnostic profiles, and in degree of comorbidity. We will relate diagnostic information to existing data on offense history and demographic features. The first step in developing gender-appropriate programming is determining the degree to which, and the ways in which, risks and needs differ or do not differ across sex. Meeting the mental health needs of youth of both sexes depends upon accurate identification.

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Updated 05/20/2006