We sought to compare the demographic characteristics, drug and alcohol use, sexual behaviors, delinquency, and mental health indicators of sexual minority and nonsexual minority first-time offending, court-involved, nonincarcerated adolescents.
Using adolescent- and caregiver-reported baseline data from the Epidemiologic Study Involving Children in the Court, a prospective cohort study of 423 adolescent-caregiver dyads recruited from a Northeastern family court system, we compared demographic and behavioral health characteristics of sexual minority and nonsexual minority first-time offending, court-involved, nonincarcerated adolescents.
Nearly one-third of the adolescents (31.4%, n = 133) were classified as a sexual minority; 19.6% (n = 81) self-identified with a nonheterosexual sexual orientation. Sexual minority adolescents were more likely than their nonsexual minority peers to identify as female, to have used psychiatric services or psychotropic medications, to have used an illicit drug or alcohol or to know peers who use these substances, to report alcohol/drug use during sex, to endorse more severe mental health problems, to have more recent post-traumatic symptoms, and to have engaged in self-harm behaviors. However, sexual minority adolescents did not differ from nonsexual minority adolescents in other demographic characteristics (including school performance) or delinquent behavior.
One-third of court-involved, nonincarcerated adolescents may be sexual minorities. Specificscreening methods are necessary to identify these adolescents and to address their unique risk characteristics, which include more severe mental health difficulties and higher rates of high-risk sexual behavior and drug/alcohol use compared with their nonsexual minority peers.