Research Brief|Articles in Press

Racial/ethnic disparities in mental healthcare in youth with incarcerated parents



      Youth with incarcerated parents (YIP) experience more Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) than other youth, placing them at higher risk for mental health and substance use disorders. Despite their increased risk, these youth may be less likely to access mental health services, particularly given their racial and ethnic makeup. Therefore, this study aimed to assess racial and ethnic disparities in access to mental health services for YIP.


      This secondary data analysis used longitudinal data from 2016 to 2019 from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study. Logistic regression models assessed the relationships among incarceration, cumulative ACEs, DSM-5 diagnoses and mental health services. Additional analyses stratified these models by race and ethnicity. All analyses were performed in 2022.


      YIP were more likely to report 4 or more ACEs (51% vs 14%, aOR 3.92, 95% CI 3.3-4.65, p <0.001) and to have received mental health services (25% vs 15%, 1.89 aOR, 1.6-2.21, p<0.001) compared to unexposed youth. However, Black YIP (19% vs 34%, aOR 0.38, 95% CI .27-.52, p<0.001) and Latinx YIP (10% vs 17%, aOR 0.5, 95% CI .33-.76, p<0.001) were significantly less likely to report receiving mental health services compared to White YIP and non-Latinx YIP, respectively.


      YIP were more likely to report utilization of mental health services, but significant racial and ethnic disparities exist between Black and Latinx YIP compared to White and non-Latinx YIP. There is a continued need to expand mental health services to YIP and to address racial and ethnic disparities in access to care.
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