To identify the prevalence of health risk factors among a sample of detained adolescent females and determine whether there are racial/ethnic differences. A cross-sectional survey of 197 adolescent females (aged 14 to 18 years) recruited within eight detention facilities. Thirty-five measures, comprising four domains, were assessed. Domains were sex-related risk factors, violence-related risk factors, selected mental health issues, and substance abuse behaviors. Measures were collected using audio-computer-assisted self-interviewing. A biological assessment for the presence of Chlamydia trachomatis, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, and Trichomonas vaginalis was also conducted. Several health risk factors were especially prominent. Mean age of sexual debut was 13 years. The mean number of sex partners (lifetime) was 8.8. Twenty percent tested positive for an STD, and 32.2% had ever been pregnant. Of those reporting sexual activity, 33.9% had not used any form of contraception in the past 2 months and about 40% reported having recent sex with a casual partner. More than 40% reported that a friend had been beaten, attacked, or hurt by others in the past year. More than one half had witnessed violence (past year) and nearly 30% had ever belonged to a gang. Forty percent had thought about committing suicide in the past 2 months, with 35% informing someone of their intent, and 25% attempting suicide. Recent use of illegal substances was common. Correlations between the four domains were significant (p <0.03), but weak. With some notable exceptions (STD prevalence, trading sex for money, witnessing violence), no difference was found between minority and nonminority adolescents with respect to risk factors. After creating an index of all the risk factors, a normal distribution was obtained (mean number of factors, 10.3; standard deviation, 5.0). Preventive medicine programs for adolescent females within detention facilities are warranted. Our evidence suggests that health risk behaviors in this population may be quite diverse; therefore, these programs should be broad in scope and that depth of the programs should vary as a function of risk level.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health