This article examines the impact of childhood maltreatment on self-reported levels of anxiety and depression among youths in correctional facilities.
The experience of childhood maltreatment is widely regarded as a risk factor for juvenile delinquency. Childhood maltreatment includes physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse, neglect, and witnessing violence among family members. The type and frequency of abuse has an impact on the consequences of maltreatment. The authors questioned whether childhood maltreatment would have consequences for juveniles’ psychological adjustment within correctional facilities. In order to probe this research question, the authors administered a survey questionnaire to 509 juveniles residing in 48 correctional institutions throughout the United States. The questionnaires focused on measures of childhood maltreatment, prior commitments, individual demographics, and perceptions of the correctional institution. Psychological adjustment was measured through a six-item summated scale that measured anxiety and depression. Results of statistical analyses indicated partial support for the hypothesis that childhood maltreatment is significantly associated with higher levels of anxiety and depression among youths in correctional facilities. The relationship between maltreatment and adjustment did not vary by type of correctional institution, indicating that boot camp-type facilities are not more harmful to mental health when compared to traditional correctional facilities. The authors contend that general mental health issues are important within correctional facilities and that therapeutic programming within these institutions should be specifically targeted to youths with histories of childhood maltreatment. Notes, references