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Gender Differences in Mental Health Symptoms Among Delinquent and Community Youth

NCJ Number
Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice Volume: 5 Issue: 3 Dated: July 2007 Pages: 287-307
Elizabeth Cauffman; Frances J. Lexcen; Asha Goldweber; Elizabeth P. Shulman; Thomas Grisso
Date Published
July 2007
21 pages
This study examined gender differences in mental health symptoms among delinquent youth detained in juvenile detention facilities (157 girls and 276 boys) and 193 girls and 242 boys who lived in 4 communities.
The study found that girls tended to have higher scores on mental health symptoms than boys in both the detained and community samples. The magnitude of these differences varied by scale and setting. The relative magnitude of gender differences was greater in detained youth than in community youths, with detained girls exhibiting greater levels of mental health symptoms than would be predicted on the basis of gender or setting alone. The likelihood of obtaining clinical scores on the Alcohol/Drug Use or Angry-Irritable scales for detained girls compared to detained boys was significantly different from the same likelihood in comparing community girls and boys. For the Alcohol/Drug Use scale, community boys were more likely to exceed clinical cutoffs than community girls. This finding shows that detained girls' problems with substance use and abuse are qualitatively different from those of other youth. The results were consistent with previous studies that showed gender differences in the self-report of mental health symptoms in the general population. Unlike other studies, the current findings highlight the special mental health needs of detained girls by comparing detained and community youths drawn from the same geographic neighborhoods. The study measured demographic and justice system experiences, intelligence, and mental health problems. The latter variables were measured with the Massachusetts Youth Screening Instrument, Version 2, a self-administered inventory developed specifically for use with juvenile justice populations in screening for symptoms of emotional and behavioral disorders. 3 tables, 1 figure, and 66 references