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Mental Health - Non-Clinical Medicine - Pediatrics and Child Health

The Risk Behaviors and Mental Health of Detained Adolescents: A Controlled, Prospective Longitudinal Study
Published: Friday, May 18, 2012
Author: Zhenhua Zhou et al.

by Zhenhua Zhou, Hongyan Xiong, Ran Jia, Guoyu Yang, Tianyou Guo, Zhaoyou Meng, Guangyu Huang, Yao Zhang


To assess the behavioral risk factors and mental health needs of adolescents in juvenile detention centers (JDC).


A total of 238 boys aged 12–17 years was surveyed who had been admitted to a detention center and compared them with boys from the community (n?=?238) matched for sex and age. We assessed behavioral risk factors and mental health problems by using the Youth Risk Behavior Survey questionnaire (YRBS) and the Youth Self-Report questionnaire (YSR).


Young offenders had significantly higher YRBS scores than controls for drug use (odds ratio (OR) 5.16, 95% CI 2.27–7.84), sexual intercourse (OR, 2.51; 95% CI 1.55–2.90), irregular diet (4.78, 2.11–7.51), suicide attempts (1.96, 1.32–5.85), and physical fighting behavior (3.49, 1.60–7.07), but not for tobacco use, alcohol use, and high–risk cycling. Young offenders at the time of admission (6.61, 2.58–15.2), at 6 months (3.12, 1.81–10.1), and at 12 months (5.29, 1.98–13.3) reported statistically higher levels of total mental health problems than adolescents in a community sample.


Young offenders have a high rate of mental and behavioral disorders. In the detention period, aggressive behavior, self–destructive/identity, and externalizing of problems improved while withdrawn, anxious or depressed, and internalizing of problems worsened.