Latinx Youth in First Contact with the Justice System: Trauma and Associated Behavioral Health Needs


This study examines the prevalence of trauma exposure and its association with psychiatric symptoms, substance use, and sexual activity among First-Time Offending, Court-Involved Non-Incarcerated (FTO-CINI) Latinx youth. Latinx youth (N = 181), ages 12–18, were recruited from a family court in the Northeastern region of the United States as part of a longitudinal cohort study of 423 FTO-CINI youth. Baseline data on trauma exposure and symptoms, psychiatric symptoms, substance use (alcohol/marijuana), and sexual activity among the Latinx sample were analyzed by age, gender, and offense type (status versus delinquent). Almost three-quarters of Latinx FTO-CINI youth reported lifetime trauma exposure. Almost half of Latinx youth reported lifetime marijuana use, 30% reported lifetime alcohol use, and 33% reported lifetime sexual activity. Females reported higher rates of internalizing symptoms and greater affect dysregulation. Trauma-exposed youth were more likely than their non-exposed peers to have reported more externalizing symptoms; trauma-exposed females compared to trauma-exposed males reported more severe internalizing symptoms. Latinx FTO-CINI females may have different behavioral health needs than their male counterparts. Court-based screening and assessment practices should attend to the specific behavioral needs of this unique, underserved population.


PTSD Sexual behavior Substance abuse Trauma Ethnic minority youth 

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