Academic journal article Journal of Juvenile Justice

EXPLORATORY RESEARCH COMMENTARY: How Do Parents and Guardians of Adolescents in the Juvenile Justice System Handle Adolescent Sexual Health?

Academic journal article Journal of Juvenile Justice

EXPLORATORY RESEARCH COMMENTARY: How Do Parents and Guardians of Adolescents in the Juvenile Justice System Handle Adolescent Sexual Health?

Article excerpt

Introduction

Minorities in the Juvenile Correctional System

In the United States, millions of adolescents enter the juvenile justice system each year. The juvenile offenders comprise a special group of the nation's youth who have their own unique challenges. Juvenile offenders are a high-risk population with special needs and they experience health problems at a higher rate than the general population (Committee on Adolescents, 2011; Golzari, Hunt, & Anoshiravani, 2006). Adolescents in the Texas juvenile justice system range in age from 10 to 17 years and represent all races, ethnicities, and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Despite the representation of various races and ethnicities, researchers have found that Hispanic and African American populations are disproportionately represented in the Texas juvenile justice system (Carmichael, Whitten, Voloudakis, 2005). In Texas, all minorities comprise 55% of the general adolescent population: 13% identify themselves as African American and 40% identify themselves as Hispanic. However, of the detained juvenile population in Texas, approximately 32% identify as African American and 39% identify as Hispanic (Carmichael et al., 2005). In the United States, whereas all minorities combined contribute to 37% of the adolescent population (Carmichael et al., 2005), minorities constitute 60% of the detained juvenile population, according to data collected in 2001 (Carmichael et al., 2005).

The population of adolescents entering the juvenile justice system, who generally comprise high-risk minority populations (Armour & Hammond, 2009; Lauritsen, 2005; The Sentencing Project, 2014), have special health needs (Committee on Adolescents, 2011; Golzari et al., 2006). Specific strategies call for a variety of studies to understand best practices in order to address the special needs of these high-risk youth (Chassin, 2008; Greenwood, 2008; Kelly, Owen, Peralez-Dieckmann, & Martinez, 2007; Lauritsen, 2005; Liddle, 2014; Marvel, Rowe, Colon-Perez, Diclemente, & Liddle, 2009).

The purpose of this paper is to explore how parents and guardians of children involved in the juvenile justice system handle the children's health needs, including sex education. Better understanding of the needs of juvenile offenders and their parents' beliefs may pave the way for determining best practices and more effective strategies for reducing high-risk behavior, such as sexual activity. The demographics of the individuals who participated in the focus group described in this article reflect the minority populations that make up the juvenile justice populations of Texas (where the focus group took place).

Risk Indicators

Adolescents in the juvenile justice system report a higher rate of engagement in high-risk behaviors than adolescents in the general population (Committee on Adolescents, 2011; Golzari et al., 2006). This led the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Commission on Correctional Health Care to declare a policy on the health care of adolescent populations in correctional facilities (Committee on Adolescents, 2011; Rizk & Alderman, 2012).The policy recommends a complete medical history and physical, including a gynecological assessment as indicated by gender, age, and risk factors (Committee on Adolescents, 2011; Rizk & Alderman, 2012), as well as sexually transmitted disease (STD) and pregnancy testing for youths entering a detention center (Committee on Adolescents, 2011; Rizk & Alderman, 2012; Spaulding et al., 2013). The high-risk behaviors of this population include sexual debut at a younger age, having multiple sexual partners, and drug/alcohol use (Chassin, 2008; Rizk & Alderman, 2012). Of the adolescents involved in the United States juvenile justice system in the year 2000, 56% of boys and 40% of girls tested positive for substance use (Chassin, 2008).

Substance use substantially increases the likelihood of engaging in other risky behaviors, especially using substances during sex, engaging in unprotected sex, and having multiple sexual partners, which puts youth at higher risk for acquiring an STD, including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) (Chassin, 2008;Teplin et al. …

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