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The role of hopelessness and procedural justice on depressogenic outcomes in serious adolescent offenders

NCJ Number
Law and Human Behavior Volume: 46 Issue: 6 Dated: 2022 Pages: 415-428
Date Published
14 pages

This study examined the role of hopelessness and perceptions of procedural justice in the mental health outcomes of justice-system-involved youth.


This study explored how levels of and changes in hopelessness and perceptions of procedural justice predicted depressive and suicidal outcomes in justice-system-involved youth and concluded that hopelessness and perceived injustice are unique predictors of depression for juvenile-justice-system-involved youth. Preventive interventions targeting both hopelessness and procedural justice could help attenuate elevated depression rates in this population. The authors hypothesized that higher levels and increasing trajectories of hopelessness, as well as of perceived injustice, would predict depressive symptoms and suicidal ideation across adolescence and emerging adulthood. The authors also expected that procedural injustice would explain the relation between hopelessness and these outcomes. Finally, the authors hypothesized that gender and race/ethnicity would moderate the influence of hopelessness and perceived injustice. Data for the present study were collected as part of the Pathways to Desistance study. In total, 1,354 adolescents (Mage = 16.04 years; 86.4% male; 41.4% non-Hispanic Black, 33.5% Hispanic, 20.2% non-Hispanic White) convicted of serious offenses participated. For the present study, participants answered questions on measures of procedural justice, hopelessness, depression, and suicidal ideation across 11 time points over 7 years. Using latent growth curve modeling, the authors found partial support for our hypotheses. Specifically, baseline levels of hopelessness predicted depression levels and increases in depression during adolescence (ps < .01). Further, changes in hopelessness predicted corresponding changes in depression throughout adolescence and emerging adulthood (ps < .001). Similarly, procedural justice levels predicted levels of depression (p < .001), and changes in procedural justice corresponded to changes in depression during emerging adulthood (p = .01). With regard to suicidal ideation, levels of and changes in hopelessness in emerging adulthood predicted corresponding suicidal ideation outcomes (ps ≤ .01). Meanwhile, the authors found only marginal support for our mediation model (p = .05). Collectively, results did not vary across gender or race/ethnicity. (Published Abstract Provided)

Date Published: January 1, 2022