The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

Using the Maysi-2 to Broaden What We Know About Traumatic Experiences and Juvenile Offenders

Saturday, January 18, 2014: 9:30 AM
HBG Convention Center, Room 002A River Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Henrika McCoy, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL
Elizabeth A. Bowen, AM, Doctoral Candidate, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL
Background: It is not uncommon for juvenile offenders to have experienced trauma; nor is it uncommon for traumatic experiences (TE) to cause feelings of anger or irritability. However, much of the research about TE for juvenile offenders focuses on girls and TE as a precipitant for their system involvement. Little has been explored about the prevalence of TE for boys or whether the relationship between TE and anger or irritability differs by race. This study examines whether there are differences by gender or race for youth with at least one TE and whether TE increase the likelihood of scoring “Caution” or “Warning” on the Angry/Irritability (AI) domain of the Massachusetts Youth Screening Instrument – Version 2 (MAYSI-2). The MAYSI-2 is a screening tool used throughout juvenile justice systems in 48 states to determine whether a youth requires an extensive mental health assessment.

Methods: MAYSI-2 data was collected from all youth detained in a Midwestern juvenile detention facility between May 2006 and March 2010 for a total of 1,992 occasions. The sample (N=1,348) was 86% male; 79% Black, 17% White, and 4% Other and included ages 10-17. Chi-square and logistic regression analyses were conducted using SAS 9.2. The possible range of TE on the MAYSI-2 is 0 to 5 and includes items such as being in danger or seeing someone severely injured or killed. The AI domain includes nine yes/no items that reflect thoughts, feelings, and behaviors indicative of anger or irritability. On this domain, a score between 0 and 4 is classified as “No Concern”; 5 to 7 is designated “Caution,” indicating clinical significance; and scores above 8 are labeled “Warning“, indicative of a youth scoring higher than the normative 90th percentile. The categories were dichotomized for analyses as “No Concern” and “Caution/Warning”.  

Results: By gender, 81% of boys and 84% of girls reported at least one TE; by race, TE were reported by Black (82%), White (79%), and Other (83%) respondents. Neither the relationship between gender and TE or between race and TE was significant; however, the relationship between TE and AI was significant (χ2=133.53, p<.001). Juveniles reporting one or more TE were more likely than those reporting no TE (OR=1.67) to score Caution/Warning; notably, as the number of TEs increased from one to five, the odds of scoring Caution/Warning also increased with ORs ranging from 2.32 to 13.55. Juveniles identified as Other who reported at least one TE were more likely than Black youth (OR=1.70) to score Caution/Warning. Higher percentages of boys than girls reported experiencing multiple TE; however, girls reporting at least one TE were more likely than boys to score Caution/Warning (OR=1.66).  

Implications: Overall, the likelihood is high that a juvenile offender has experienced at least one trauma; therefore, services provided to address anger and mental health issues should incorporate trauma-informed standards of care. The high percentage of males that indicated experiencing trauma is rarely noted in the literature, but it is important and should be considered during disposition and the determination of service provision.