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The relationship between psychological symptom ratings and crime in juvenile justice system involved young people

Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health

Published online on


["Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health, Volume 31, Issue 1, Page 13-30, February 2021. ", "\nAbstract\n\nRationale\nPrior research has not adequately examined the relationship between psychological state and offending. Limitations include over‐reliance on criminal convictions as the dependent variable, failure to examine a comprehensive set of psychological states, the limited nature of measures and the frequent use of cross‐sectional data that cannot ensure temporal ordering.\n\n\nAims\nTo explore the relationship between five self‐reported psychological states—anxiety, depression, hostility, paranoia and psychoticism—and three types of offending—violent, non‐violent and marijuana use—reported 6 months later in a sample of justice system involved young people.\n\n\nMethods\nData were acquired from the publicly available Pathways to Desistance dataset, a longitudinal study of 1262 young people (86% male) involved in the criminal justice system. Measures of psychological state were self‐reported using the Brief Symptom Inventory at project entry and self‐report offending measures 6 months later.\n\n\nResults\nNo psychological states were significantly associated with reports of marijuana use and depression was not related to offending. Anger and paranoia each predicted an increased variety of violent and non‐violent offending, while anxiety and psychoticism each increased the variety of violent but not non‐violent offending. Clinically significant states on one or more sub‐scales were related to variety of both violent and non‐violent offending.\n\n\nImplications\nThese results suggest that early screening of psychological state may help identify young people at risk for offending. Further research might be directed at clarifying the extent of actual disorder and the nature of interventions that would best help not only those with a diagnosable disorder, but also those with aspects of their psychological state which trouble them, but which may not actually amount to disorder.\n "]