The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

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

Latent Psychosocial Profiles of a State-Based Sample of Serious and Chronic Female Juvenile Offenders

Saturday, January 18, 2014
HBG Convention Center, Bridge Hall Street Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Chiquitia Welch-Brewer, PhD, Assistant Professor, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Greensboro, NC
Amelia Roberts-Lewis, PhD, LCSW, Associate Professor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
Background and Purpose: The “average” female juvenile offender has often been described as being 14 to 15 years old; growing up in a neighborhood with a high crime rate; belonging to an ethnic/racial minority group; having a history of victimization and poor academic performance; and using /abusing psychoactive substances. Less is known, however, about the variation in psychosocial profiles of female juvenile offenders, particularly in populations of serious and chronic female juvenile offenders. Identifying and understanding the variation within populations of serious female offenders could lead to improvements in intervention and treatment. Thus, the primary objective of this study was to determine are there distinct psychosocial risk profiles in a sample of incarcerated female juvenile offenders? If so, do the subgroups of female juvenile offenders with distinct psychosocial risk profiles differ as a function of the demographic characteristic of race and the background characteristic of a DSM-IV-TRdiagnosis of a substance use disorder?  

Methods: Latent profile analysis was conducted to determine if there were distinct psychosocial risk profiles in a state-based sample (n=203) of incarcerated girls (M = 14.93, SD= 1.00) based on 12 variables: depression, problems with mother, problems with father, problems with friends, problems with school, aggression, family relationship problems, alcohol use, drug use, family relationships, peer relations, and educational status. These variables were selected for examination based on the biopsychosocial model of conduct disorder/antisocial development (Dodge & Pettit, 2003).

Results: Findings from this cross sectional, exploratory study revealed four distinct groups/profiles--Aggression Only (51%), Alcohol and Drug Use (18%), Severe Alcohol and Drug Use (5%), and Family Conflict (26%)— in the sample, with varying levels of problem severity related to family, peers, aggression, alcohol and drug use, and school processes.  Girls in the Aggression Only class had the lowest level of problem severity, and the highest level of psychosocial functioning. Conversely, girls in the Severe Alcohol and Drug Use class had the highest level of problem severity and the lowest level of psychosocial functioning.  Girls in the Aggression and Drug Use class had the second highest level of problem severity, and girls in the Family Conflict class had the highest level of family conflict. Race was not a significant predictor of class membership.  Conversely, the covariate of substance use disorder was a significant predictor of latent class membership.

Conclusion: The present study provides evidence that serious female juvenile offenders are a heterogeneous group. Their psychosocial risk profiles varied, suggesting that it may be necessary to provide interventions to female juvenile offenders that range from less to more intensive. Accordingly, the developers of interventions, programs, and policy cannot presume that similar approaches to addressing and treating the needs and problem behaviors of female juvenile offenders are warranted. Policies, interventions and treatment strategies should be developed to address the heterogeneous needs of female juvenile offenders.