Psy 636 Discussion: The Legal System

Research has supported the idea that children and adolescents who have been involved in the legal system will have or already have developed a mental disorder precipitating or following their involvement in the legal system. What is the importance of exploring the impact of the legal system on behavioral and mental health development?

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What is the importance of exploring the impact of the legal system on behavioral and mental health development?

It is imperative to explore the impact of the legal system on both behavioral and mental health development as children who are exposed to this lifestyle often face complex and extreme adverse effects. When the impact of these issues is understood, better services can be provided to combat the vast amount of issues that these children and adolescents face, in addition to decreasing the likelihood of repeat offenses (Arredondo, 2003). It is not uncommon for children or adolescents who present behavioral or mental health disorders due to past negative experiences to lack the appropriate services that are needed to heal and overcome past trauma (Arredondo, 2003). Unfortunately, youths who reappear in the criminal justice system often come from a chaotic lifestyle and have learned to accept unpredictability, threatening, and unfair lifestyles, which often leads them to act out to cope with the lack of structure (Arredondo, 2003). When the legal system understands the chaos from where the child or adolescent is coming from, they are able to rewrite expectations and show the individual that consistency and kindness are possible. In addition, the legal system would be able to provide a stable environment to treat those struggling with past experiences as it is not uncommon for children to experience various comorbidities due to past trauma (Wanklyn, Day, Hart, & Girard, 2012). Focusing specifically on adverse childhood experiences, it has been proven that a correlation exists between adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and health and social problems. When the legal system recognizes the significance of the impacts on the individual’s well-being, children are able to learn resilience and overcome the extensive mental and physical health issues that await their future, such as anxiety, depression, heart disease, and other various bodily illnesses (“Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs),” 2019). In addition, when individuals in the legal system understand the impacts of adverse effects on children and adolescents regarding their behavioral and mental health, intervention strategies can be improved to enhance the likelihood of the child or adolescent succeeding in their personal lives, both physically and mentally, avoiding repeat offenses, and ultimately healing from the past trauma to break the re-occurring cycle that these individuals often fall into.


Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). (2019). Retrieved from

Arredondo, D. E. (2003). Child Development, Children’s Mental Health and the … Retrieved from

Wanklyn, S. G., Day, D.M., Hart, T.A., & Girard, T.A.(2012). Cumulative Childhood maltreatment and depression among incarcerated youth: Impulsivity and hopelessness as potential intervening variables. Child Maltreatment, 17(4), 306-317.doi:10.1077559512466956.


Involvement within the legal system often times greatly affects both children and adolescents across many aspects of their lives, the greatest aspect affected being their social emotional development. These affects present differently between children and adolescents due to varying factors such as: environment, their developmental abilities, and whether or not their parents have any involvement in their lives. Studies have found that children and adolescents who suffer from mental health issues or addiction do not receive any services prior to or while in the system. One study has found that roughly 34% of those suffering from mental health issues and substance abuse received services prior to entering into the system (Lee, Goodkind, & Shook, 2017).

Often time, children and adolescents that are involved in the juvenile system often times present with with depression which are often times a result of childhood maltreatment (Wanklyn, Day, Hart, & Girard, 2012). With a lack of consistency and structure in their lives, often times these children and adolescents are greatly affected in a crucial point in their lives.
There are different treatments available for both children and adolescents that present with mental health issues. If a child or adolescent suffering from mental health illness does not receive any type of treatment, it is more likely that they will repeat their offenses and continue to struggle. Social supports would greatly help these youth as it would give them both structure and consistency in their lives, they have not received from parents or other figures in their lives.

Lee, L. H., Goodkind, S., &Shook, J.J. (2017). Racial/ethnic disparities in prior mental health service use among incarcerated adolescents. Children & Youth Services Review, 7823-31

Wanklyn, S. G., Day, D.M.,Hart, T.A., & Girard, T.A.(2012). Cumulative Childhood maltreatment and depression among incarcerated youth: Impulsivity and hopelessness as potential intervening variables. Child Maltreatment, 17(4), 306-317.doi:10.1077559512466956.

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