Health Risk Behavior Among Justice Involved Male and Female Youth: Exploratory, Multi-Group Latent Class Analysis

Richard Dembo, Jessica Faber, Jennifer Cristiano, Ralph J. DiClemente, Julie M. Krupa, Asha Terminello, Jennifer Wareham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Youth involved in the juvenile justice system experience a disproportionate prevalence of serious mental health issues, substance abuse, and are at an increased risk of engaging in risky sexual practices. Gender differences exist, with girls at a markedly greater risk of acquiring a sexually transmitted disease. Objectives: The present study seeks to determine if there are subgroups of male and female youth who differ in their health risk behavior. If so, do any male or female subgroups at different levels of health risk differ in regard to their sociodemographic and psychological factors, and finally, what are intervention/service delivery implications of these differences. Methods: Youth were participants in an innovative health service at a centralized intake facility located in a large southeastern U.S. city. Latent class analysis and multinomial logistic regression is utilized to examine the heterogeneity of health risk behaviors across gender groups in a sample of 777 newly arrested youth. Results: Results indicate a three class solution provided the optimal fit with the data for each gender group: a Lower Health Risk group, a Higher Health Risk group, and a Highest Health Risk group. Multinomial logistic regression analysis identified significant sociodemographic and depression effects among both male and female youth. Conclusions/Importance: Youth characterized by risky sexually behavior, elevated depression, and drug involvement should be the focus of integrated intervention services. This study documents the critical need for front end, juvenile justice intake facilities to provide behavioral and public health screening, with treatment follow-up, on newly arrested youth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1751-1764
Number of pages14
JournalSubstance Use and Misuse
Issue number13
StatePublished - Nov 10 2017


  • Health risk drug use
  • STDs
  • juvenile justice
  • latent class analysis
  • multi-group analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


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