Perceptions of Recidivism Among Incarcerated Youth: The Relationship Between Exposure to Childhood Trauma, Mental Health Status, and the Protective Effect of Mental Health Services in Juvenile Justice Settings

Jamie R. Yoder, Kelly Whitaker, Camille R. Quinn


Research suggests that youth involved the juvenile justice system have trauma histories that are two times higher than the general youth population. Juvenile justice-involved youth also have high rates of mental health symptoms. Fewer studies have examined how trauma links to mental health symptoms among youth offenders, and even less research focuses on how mental health status and service delivery can impact their perceived likelihood for success. This study examines the effects of mental health screening and service delivery on perceived future criminal justice interactions— arrest and incarceration—among adjudicated youth (n=7,073) housed in correctional facilities. Secondary data were used to examine trauma histories, mental health needs, and mental health screening and service delivery. Significant relationships between traumatic events and mental health problems were found, along with relationships between mental health problems and mental health screening and service delivery. Most interestingly, results pointed to the strong inverse relationship between mental health service delivery and youth’s perceived likelihood for recidivism. These findings show the promise of juvenile justice systems appropriately responding to the mental health concerns of youth. 


Trauma; mental health services; juvenile justice; incarceration; youth

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