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01-04-2009 | Uitgave 2/2009

Journal of Behavioral Medicine 2/2009

Drug use and sexually transmitted diseases among female and male arrested youths

Journal of Behavioral Medicine > Uitgave 2/2009
Richard Dembo, Steven Belenko, Kristina Childs, Jennifer Wareham


Knowledge of the rates and correlates of juvenile offenders’ sexually transmitted diseases (STD) has been limited to samples of incarcerated youths comprised mostly of males. Data collected on 442 female and 506 male youths processed at a centralized intake facility enabled us to study this important public health problem among a sample of juvenile offenders at the front end of the justice system. Female–male, multi-group latent class analyses identified two subgroups, High Risk and Lower Risk, of youths described by a latent construct of risk based on drug test results, STD test results, and a classification for the seriousness of arrest charge. The results found: (1) a similar classification distinguished High Risk and Lower Risk male and female youths, and (2) important gender group differences in sexual risk related factors (e.g., substance use during sexual encounters). Among the youths in this sample who tested positive for an STD, 66% of the girls and 57% of the boys were released back into the community after arrest. Overall, our findings raise serious public health and social welfare concerns, for both the youths and the community. Prevention and intervention implications of these findings are also discussed.

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