Date of Conferral



Doctor of Public Health (DrPH)


Public Health


Peter Anderson


Incarceration of adolescents in the United States has grown substantially during the last 3 decades with nearly 53,000 adolescents held every day in correctional facilities. Many researchers have raised concerns about the greater percentage of adolescents with learning disabilities (LDs) in the juvenile system. In the state of Washington, one study in residential placements showed approximately 20% of youth incarcerated had a diagnosed LD. The purpose of this quantitative cross-sectional study was to use the therapeutic change, length of stay, and recidivism in incarcerated juvenile offenders in Washington state, 2008–2015 data set to examine possible factors associated with incarceration of youth with LDs. The study was guided by Bronfenbrenner’s social ecological model. Using a binary logistic regression, the research questions tested potential relationships between a diagnosis of LD and several factors (sexual/physical abuse, family imprisonment, drug/alcohol abuse) among incarcerated adolescents aged 10 to 19 years. Confounding factors that may influence these associations were controlled. The sample included 637 incarcerated adolescents. Findings showed that specific LD diagnosis had a statistically significant association with sex abuse (OR: .518, 95% CI: .295, .910, p = .022) and physical abuse (OR: .581, 95% CI: .379, .890, p = .013) but no association with history of family imprisonment and substance abuse in this population. Positive social change resulting from this study may include a better understanding of the factors associated with incarceration of adolescents with LD and guidance for adequate collaborative public health interventions to help decrease this burden in the United States.