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J Adolesc Health. 1999 Jan;24(1):21-7.

Health beliefs and reported symptoms among a sample of incarcerated adolescent females.

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Department of Psychiatry, Mercer University School of Medicine, Macon, Georgia 31207, USA.



To understand the health care needs (or perceived needs) of incarcerated female adolescents by comparing their rates of physical complaints, health attitudes, and treatment seeking to a normative sample.


A sample (n = 138) of incarcerated girls was administered the Somatic Symptom Checklist, the Illness Attitudes Scales, and the Reynolds Adolescent Depression Scale to assess lifetime prevalence of physical symptoms, attitudes toward health, treatment-seeking experience, and emotional distress, and allow for comparison with a normative sample. Information regarding length of incarceration, race, and school achievement was obtained from institutional records.


A median lifetime prevalence of 12 symptoms for the incarcerated sample differed significantly from the median of six symptoms reported by a normative sample. The symptoms most commonly expressed by the detainees were dizziness, heart pounding, chest pains, and nausea. In both their attitudes toward illness and actual physical complaints, these subjects were more concerned about illness and perceived themselves to be more physically impaired. Self-reported symptoms of depression and illness were positively correlated. Physical complaints were independent of age, race, length of incarceration, or achievement scores.


The frequency and variety of somatic complaints, as well as their relationship to emotional distress, among these incarcerated girls highlight the need for integration of physical and mental health services within juvenile facilities.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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