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OBJECTIVE: To systematically review and perform a meta-analysis of the research literature on the prevalence of mental disorders in adolescents in juvenile detention and correctional facilities. METHOD: Surveys of psychiatric morbidity based on interviews of unselected populations of detained children and adolescents were identified by computer-assisted searches, scanning of reference lists, hand-searching of journals, and correspondence with authors of relevant reports. The sex-specific prevalence of mental disorders (psychotic illness, major depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder [ADHD], and conduct disorder) together with potentially moderating study characteristics were abstracted from publications. Statistical analysis involved metaregression to identify possible causes of differences in disorder prevalence across surveys. RESULTS: Twenty-five surveys involving 13,778 boys and 2,972 girls (mean age 15.6 years, range 10-19 years) met inclusion criteria. Among boys, 3.3% (95% confidence interval [CI] 3.0%-3.6%) were diagnosed with psychotic illness, 10.6% (7.3%-13.9%) with major depression, 11.7% (4.1%-19.2%) with ADHD, and 52.8% (40.9%-64.7%) with conduct disorder. Among girls, 2.7% (2.0%-3.4%) were diagnosed with psychotic illness, 29.2% (21.9%-36.5%) with major depression, 18.5% (9.3%-27.7%) with ADHD, and 52.8% (32.4%-73.2%) with conduct disorder. Metaregression suggested that surveys using the Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children yielded lower prevalence estimates for depression, ADHD, and conduct disorder, whereas studies with psychiatrists acting as interviewers had lower prevalence estimates only of depression. CONCLUSIONS: Adolescents in detention and correctional facilities were about 10 times more likely to suffer from psychosis than the general adolescent population. Girls were more often diagnosed with major depression than were boys, contrary to findings from adult prisoners and general population surveys. The findings have implications for the provision of psychiatric services for adolescents in detention.

Original publication




Journal article


J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry

Publication Date





1010 - 1019


Adolescent, Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity, Conduct Disorder, Depressive Disorder, Major, Female, Humans, Juvenile Delinquency, Male, Mental Disorders, Prisoners, Psychotic Disorders, Referral and Consultation, Regression Analysis