Prevalence Rates and Evolution of Psychiatric Disorders Among Incarcerated Youths in Comparison With Non-incarcerated Youths.

Heller, Patrick; Morosan, Larisa; Badoud, Deborah; Laubscher, Manon; Jimenez Olariaga, Lisa; Debbané, Martin; Wolff, Hans; Baggio, Stéphanie (2022). Prevalence Rates and Evolution of Psychiatric Disorders Among Incarcerated Youths in Comparison With Non-incarcerated Youths. Frontiers in psychiatry, 12, p. 784954. Frontiers 10.3389/fpsyt.2021.784954

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Background: Our main objective was to provide estimates of the prevalence rates of psychiatric disorders and comorbidities among youths in a juvenile detention center in Geneva, Switzerland. We also aimed to investigate potential positive effects of intensive psychotherapeutic and educational services this center provides. Finally, we examined psychiatric care prior to and after custody as well as the evolution of the youths' mental health during detention. Methods: We conducted a longitudinal study including a group of incarcerated (n = 86) and a group of non-incarcerated (n = 169) youths (12-18 years old). Measures included diagnoses of psychiatric disorders, cognitive functions, trauma, psychopathic traits and the Youth Self-Report (aggressive behavior, attentional disorders, criminal behavior, social withdrawal, anxiety, depression and somatic complaints) collected at baseline and at discharge for the incarcerated group. Data were analyzed using mixed-effect models. Results: Psychiatric disorders were prevalent in the incarcerated group (82.6, 95% CI: 71.6-90.7%), but young people also often suffered from several disorders simultaneously. Two-thirds of the incarcerated participants had a diagnosis of two or more psychiatric disorders. Regarding health care, most incarcerated participants (79.1%) had psychiatric care prior to detention. The planned care after detention was associated with psychiatric comorbidities, care being more likely planned for those with comorbidities (p = 0.030). Compared to the non-incarcerated group, the incarcerated group had lower scores on cognitive functioning (p < 0.001) and higher scores on trauma (p < 0.021) and psychopathic traits (p < 0.034). The youths' stay in the detention center was associated with a positive change of mental health, with externalized problems being significantly reduced at the end of their stay (p = 0.017). Conclusion: Our findings showed that youths in conflict with the law are characterized by (1) their internal vulnerabilities: a high prevalence of psychiatric disorders and psychiatric comorbidities, lower cognitive functions, externalized problems and psychopathic traits; (2) environmental factors: victims of violence and sexual abuse; and (3) their psychiatric history. Besides, the evolution of the most prevalent issues was favorable over time, which puts into question the usual perspective about the deleterious effect of detention.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Medical Education > Institute of General Practice and Primary Care (BIHAM)

UniBE Contributor:

Baggio, Stéphanie


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 360 Social problems & social services








Doris Kopp Heim

Date Deposited:

27 Jan 2022 18:50

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 16:06

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

delinquency juvenile mental health prison psychiatry




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