Girls’ quality of life prior to detention in relation to psychiatric disorders, trauma exposure and socioeconomic status



Practice and research on detained girls has mainly been problem oriented, overlooking these minors’ own perspective on and satisfaction with life. The aim of this study was to examine how girls evaluate multiple domains of quality of life (QoL) and how each domain is affected by psychiatric (co)morbidity, trauma, and socioeconomic status (SES).


An abbreviated version of the World Health Organization (WHO) QoL Instrument was used to assess the girls’ (N = 121; M age  = 16.28) QoL prior to detention. This self-report questionnaire consists of two benchmark items referring to their overall QoL and health, and 24 remaining items measuring their QoL regarding four domains (physical health, psychological health, social relationships, and environment). The Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children-IV was used to assess the past-year prevalence of psychiatric disorders and life-time trauma exposure.


Detained girls perceived their QoL almost as good as the 12- to 20-year-olds from the WHO’s international field trial on all but one domain (i.e., psychological health). They were most satisfied with their social relationships and least satisfied with their psychological health. Psychiatric disorders, trauma, and low SES were distinctively and negatively related to various domains of QoL. The girls’ psychological health was most adversely affected by psychosocial and socioeconomic problems, while these variables had an almost negligible impact on their satisfaction with their social relationships.


The particularity of each domain of QoL supports a multidimensional conceptualization of QoL. Regarding treatment, psychological health appears as a domain of major concern, while social relationships might serve as a source of resilience.

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We would like to thank Ghent University FIRE (Fostering Innovative Research based on Evidence) and Jan Lammertyn (researcher at the Department of Data Analysis at the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, Ghent University) for providing statistical support.

Ethical standard

This study was approved by the Institutional Review Board of the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences at Ghent University (2011/59) and by the Board of the YDC. The girls provided written informed consent before starting the assessment. At the moment the girls entered the YDC, the girls’ parents also received a letter including information about the aims and practical aspects of the study and could refuse participation.

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Correspondence to Lore Van Damme.

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Van Damme, L., Colins, O., De Maeyer, J. et al. Girls’ quality of life prior to detention in relation to psychiatric disorders, trauma exposure and socioeconomic status. Qual Life Res 24, 1419–1429 (2015).

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  • Quality of life
  • Psychiatric disorder
  • Trauma
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Young offenders
  • Females