The relationship between traumatic exposure, family dysfunction, and post-traumatic stress symptoms in male juvenile offenders



This study examined some chronic, stressful conditions and some acute traumatic events which may place youths at risk for specific types of psychopathology. Ninety one delinquent adolescents with histories of serious and repeated crimes were assessed for their exposure to 11 different types of trauma. The subjects were also tested using measures which assess family functioning, and frequency and intensity of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms. Results indicated that 24% of the subjects tested met full DSM III-R criteria for PTSD. Both exposure to violence and family dysfunction were significantly associated with PTSD symptomatology. These findings suggest that juvenile offenders may constitute a high risk group for exposure to multiple types of trauma and the development of post-traumatic stress symptoms related to such exposure. This study provides a rationale for future cross-trauma research both within the juvenile offender population and between it and other identified trauma groups.