Criminal Justice Contact in Adolescence and Depressive Symptoms in Early Adulthood


Ziegler, Jessica (2014). Criminal Justice Contact in Adolescence and Depressive Symptoms in Early Adulthood.


Criminologists have considered the collateral consequences of incarceration, but research has generally focused on adults and has not looked in depth at the mental health implications of coming into contact with the criminal justice system earlier in life. Prior research on juveniles in the criminal justice system also has not considered the long lasting effects of arrest or incarceration. Drawing from a life course perspective, I use data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) to examine how arrest and incarceration as a juvenile influences early adulthood depressive symptoms in a nationally representative sample (N=11,437). The current study also seeks to explore the mediating mechanisms of this relationship outlined by Pearlin et al.’s (1981) stress process theory. I expect that juveniles who experience the criminal justice system will report higher levels of depressive symptoms in adulthood net of background characteristics. I also expect that personal resources, coping mechanisms, and social support variables will mediate this relationship. The current study finds support for a positive relationship between juvenile criminal justice contact and depressive symptoms in early adulthood. Respondents who were incarcerated as juveniles experienced higher levels of depressive symptoms even after controlling for background risk factors and other sociodemographic characteristics. Mediating mechanisms proposed in the stress process literature only partially account for the relationship between juvenile arrest and depressive symptoms in adulthood.



juvenile justice

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Ziegler, Jessica

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Bowling Green State University

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