Justice System Involvement Among Adolescents in the Emergency Department.

Document Type


Publication Date



DOI: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2021.03.048


OBJECTIVE: To assess justice system involvement among adolescents in the pediatric emergency department and identify associations with risk and protective factors.

STUDY DESIGN: We conducted a cross-sectional, computerized survey of adolescents to assess for personal, justice system involvement, and nonhousehold justice system involvement (ie, important people outside of household). We assessed sexual behaviors, violent behaviors, substance use, school suspension/expulsion, parental supportiveness, and participant mood (scoredistress). We compared differences between groups using the χ

RESULTS: We enrolled 191 adolescents (mean age 16.1 years, 61% female). Most (68%) reported justice system involvement: personal (13%), household (42%), and nonhousehold (40%). Nearly one-half (47%) were sexually active and 50% reported school suspension/expulsion. The mean score for mood was 70.1 (SD 18); adolescents with justice system involvement had had lower mood scores (68 vs 74, P = .03) compared with those without justice system involvement. In a multivariable model, school expulsion/suspension was significantly associated with reporting any justice system involvement (OR 10.4; 95% CI 4.8-22.4).

CONCLUSIONS: We identified the pediatric emergency department as a novel location to reach adolescents at risk for poor health outcomes associated with justice system involvement. Future work should assess which health promotion interventions and supports are desired among these adolescents and families.

Journal Title

The Journal of pediatrics



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adolescent; emergency department; health behaviors; justice system.

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