Ninety percent cent of young people caught up in the youth justice system have experienced significant childhood trauma.
Furthermore, 70℅ have a mental health disorder and 30% fulfil the criteria for a diagnosis of PTSD.
Also, they are far more likely than average to have problems associated with drugs and alcohol and be low academic achievers.
A study conducted by Dierkhising and colleagues (2013), published in the European Journal of Psychotraumatology, also revealed that :
– the traumatic experiences that the young offenders suffered most often had their onset between birth and 5 years of age (this was the case in 62℅ of the young offenders who took part in the study).
– 33℅ had experienced trauma in each and every year of their adolescence
– the average number of different types of traumatic events the young offenders had suffered was 4.9.
What Kind Of Traumatic Experiences Have Young Offenders Most Frequently Suffered?
Dierkhising’s study showed that the main traumas the young offenders had experienced were :
1) Loss and bereavement (traumatic loss, separation from caregiver, bereavement)
2) Impaired caregiver
3) Domestic violence
4) Emotional abuse/psychological maltreatment
5) Physical maltreatment/abuse
6) Community violence
The graph below reflects the full results of the study and shows what percentage of young offenders in the study had suffered each of the traumas shown along the horizontal axis of the graph:
The study found that 66.1% of the young offenders externalised their problems (ie their negative, problematic behaviours were directed outside the self – eg towards other people, animals, property etc).
Rule breaking and aggression were found to be the most frequent ways the young offenders in the study externalised their problems.
The study also found that 45.5℅ of the young offenders in the study internalized their problems (ie their negative, problematic behaviours were directed inward against the self). This process of internalisation most frequently resulted in:
– thought disturbances
Implications of the study:
Identifying any history of traumatic experience that young offenders may have suffered, together with treating the effects of any such trauma, should be an absolute priority when young people come into contact with the criminal youth system.
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