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A Longitudinal Investigation of Trauma Exposure, Retraumatization, and Post-Traumatic Stress of Justice-Involved Adolescents

NCJ Number
Thomas A. Loughran; Joan Reid
Date Published
March 2018
32 pages
The findings and methodology are reported for a longitudinal study with the goal of increasing knowledge about justice-involved youths' trauma exposure, re-traumatization, and trauma-related psychological distress.
The study examined the link between a youth's exposure to violence and various types of psychological symptoms. The strongest link was found between exposure to violence and depression, hostility, paranoid ideation, and psychotic symptoms. Associations between the level and trajectories of exposure to violence and psychological distress remained consistent over the study period. The findings indicated a general decrease in exposure to violence and psychological distress over time; however, the findings do not support the belief that exposure to violence and psychological distress improve or worsen similarly for all justice-involved youth. Although Caucasian and Hispanic youth generally showed a significant decrease in exposure to violence, this did not occur among African-American youth. The study involved a sample of 1,354 male and female youths, who completed a baseline assessment and 10 follow-up interviews over a 7-year period as part of the Pathways to Desistence study. After descriptive and bivariate analyses, latent class analysis identified a taxonomy based on adolescents' patterns of exposure to violence; and the association between the exposure to violence and various psychological symptoms. In addition, latent growth models were used to examine changes in exposure to violence over time; changes in psychological distress over time; parallel processes of change in exposure to violence and psychological distress over time; and differences in the evolution of violence exposure and psychological distress across gender and race/ethnicity. Implications are drawn for those who treat justice-involved youth, and recommendations are provided for future related research. 5 tables, 1 figure, and 44 references