Mental Health Symptoms and Parenting Stress of Parents of Court-Involved Youth

Abstract

Youth involved in the juvenile justice system are at risk for emotional and behavioral problems. However, research with court-involved adolescents has neglected to examine the mental health of their parents, who may also have significant personal and parenting stress. This sample consisted of 144 parent–adolescent dyads. Adolescents (aged 11–17 years) identified by court officials were referred to the study to receive mental health treatment. Parents and adolescents completed surveys about their mental health diagnoses, treatment, and family relationships. Using the clinical cut-off for the global severity index of the Symptom Checklist-90-Revised, bivariate and multiple logistic regression analyses were performed to examine group differences between parents with and without significant mental health symptoms. Results indicated that 35% of parents endorsed clinically significant mental health symptoms. Parents with clinically significant symptoms, compared to those without, reported significantly greater parenting stress (p< .05), and were more likely to have received prior mental health treatment (54 vs. 25%; p < .05) and a psychiatric diagnosis (52 vs. 19%; p < .05). Our findings revealed that more than one in three parents of court-involved adolescents are currently experiencing significant mental health symptoms. Improved mental health screening and intervention that incorporates the unique needs of families is recommended, including the possible use of family-based approaches as well as individualized treatment for the parents of court-involved youth.

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Author Contributions

L. K. B. designed and executed the study, assisted with data analyses, and wrote the paper. N. T. analyzed the data and wrote the results. M. T. S. and C. E. S. collaborated with the study design and implementation, and contributed to writing and editing the study. M. G. H. wrote the methods, wrote part of the introduction, and collaborated in the writing and editing of the final manuscript. L. C. wrote part of the introduction, collaborated in the writing and editing of the final manuscript.

Funding

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health (grant R01 MH087520); The Lifespan Tufts Brown Center for AIDS Research (P30 AI 042853). Research supported by National Institutes of Health grant R01 MH087520 (PI: Brown); National Institute of Mental Health grant T32 MH078788 (PI: Brown); Lifespan Tufts Brown Center for AIDS Research P30 AI 042853 (PI: Cu-Uvin).

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Correspondence to Larry K. Brown.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of Rhode Island Hospital and George Mason University IRBs, and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Brown, L.K., Tarantino, N., Tolou-Shams, M. et al. Mental Health Symptoms and Parenting Stress of Parents of Court-Involved Youth. J Child Fam Stud 27, 843–852 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-017-0923-1

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Keywords

  • Adolescents
  • Juvenile justice
  • Parents
  • Mental health
  • Parenting stress