types of trauma. 121 Some effects are clinical DSM trauma symptoms, such as re-experiencing,
avoidance, and hyper-arousal. Other effects are just beginning to be understood, such as the
impact on brain development, long-term consequences, and intergenerational transmission. Since
a majority of youth in the juvenile justice system experienced traumatic events, this clinical
concept is extremely relevant to these youth. Therefore, the Miller Court’s instructions to
consider adverse childhood experiences at sentencing take on particular significance, as it brings
the concept of child trauma into the juvenile courtrooms.
D. Prevalence of Child Trauma in the Juvenile Justice System
Youth in the juvenile justice system report more exposure to traumatic events and more
trauma effects than youth in the general population. 122 Moreover, studies have examined the
relationship between an individual experiencing a traumatic event and later involvement in the
juvenile justice system.123 Using data from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network
(NCTSN), a 2013 study found that up to ninety percent of youth in the juvenile justice system
report experiencing a traumatic event; on average seventy percent of whom have mental health
disorders and approximately thirty percent of whom suffer from PTSD.124 In a study of juveniles
ages ten to eighteen in a juvenile detention center, 92.5% of the sample experienced at least one
traumatic event with a median of six adverse events, and 11.2% of those juveniles qualified for a
PTSD diagnosis.125 Similarly, another 2013 study found that 94% of youth in juvenile court
reported experiencing at least one traumatic event with an average of 5. 4 adverse events, but with
a higher rate of over 45% screening positive for PTSD.126 Thus, the findings of trauma for youth
in juvenile justice are consistent across settings, place and time.
Studies have reported that females in the juvenile justice system are more likely than
males to report sexual abuse and assault,127 with females also developing more trauma
symptoms.128 Moreover, research reveals that sixty-two percent of youth experienced their first
traumatic event by the time they were five years old, and approximately a third of the youth in the
study reported exposure to other types of trauma every year after that into adolescence.129 Thus
the researchers conclude that
[ i]t is important for policymakers to acknowledge that justice-involved youth
have strikingly high rates of trauma exposure and that this trauma typically
121 See DSM- 5, supra note 65, at 3 (listing other trauma diagnoses besides PTSD, such as Reactive Attachment Disorder, Disinhibited
Social Engagement Disorder, and Acute Stress Disorder).
122 See JOSEPH J. COCOZZA & JENNIE L. SHUFELT, NAT’L CTR. FOR MENTAL HEALTH & JUV. JUST., JUVENILE MENTAL HEALTH
COURTS: AN EMERGING STRA TEGY 1 (2006),
http://www.ncmhjj.com/pdfs/publications/JuvenileMentalHealthCourts.pdf (reviewing statistics regarding mental health and juvenile
justice); JULIAN D. FORD ET AL., NAT’L CTR. FOR MENTAL HEALTH & JUV. JUST., TRAUMA AMONG YOUTH IN THE JUVENILE JUSTICE
SYSTEM: CRITICAL ISSUES AND NEW DIRECTIONS 1 (2007); ERICA J. ADAMS, JUST. POL’Y INST., HEALING INVISIBLE WOUNDS: WHY
INVESTING IN TRAUMA-INFORMED CARE FOR CHILDREN MAKES SENSE 5 (2010), http://www.justicepolicy.org/images/upload/10-
07_REP_HealingInvisible Wounds_JJ-PS.pdf (“Many of the nation’s most traumatized youth are found in the juvenile justice system .
. . .”); Karen M. Abram et al., Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Trauma in Youth in Juvenile Detention, 61 ARCH. GEN. PSYCHIATRY
403, 407 (2004).
123 See Beverly A. Brosky & Stephen J. Lally, Prevalence of Trauma, PTSD, and Dissociation in Court-Referred Adolescents, 19 J.
INTERPERSONAL VIOLENCE 801, 802 (2004) (synthesizing studies on the possible link between trauma and delinquency).
124 Carly B. Dierkhising et al., Trauma Histories Among Justice-Involved Youth: Findings from the National Child Traumatic Stress
Network, 4 EUR J. PSYCHOTRAUMATOLOGY 1, 1-3 (2013), http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3714673/pdf/EJPT-4-
125 Abram et al., supra note 122, at 405-06.
126 Harriet J. Rosenberg et al., Trauma Exposure, Psychiatric Disorders, and Resiliency in
Juvenile-Justice-Involved Youth, PSYCHOL. TRAUMA: THEORY, RESEARCH, PRAC., & POL’Y, July 1, 2013, at 1, 4-5,
127 Dierkhising et al., supra note 124, at 2; FORD ET AL., supra note 122, at 2.
128 Dierkhising et al., supra note 124, at 2.
129 Id. at 6.