Diagnostic prevalence rates from early to mid-adolescence among indigenous adolescents: First results from a longitudinal study

Les B. Whitbeck, Mansoo Yu, Kurt D. Johnson, Dan R. Hoyt, Melissa L. Walls

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


Objective: Investigate change in prevalence rates for mental and substance abuse disorders between early and midadolescence among a cohort of indigenous adolescents. Method: The data are from a lagged, sequential study of 651 indigenous adolescents from a single culture in the northern Midwest UOnited States and Canada. At waves 1 (ages 10-12 years) and 4 (ages 13-15 years), one adult caretaker and one tribally enrolled adolescent completed a computer-assisted personal interview that included Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children-Revised assessment for 11 diagnoses. Multivariate analyses investigate effects of wave 1 adolescent diagnosis and wave 1 biological mother diagnosis (University of Michigan Composite International Diagnostic Interview) on wave 4 diagnostic outcomes. Results: The findings show a increase in prevalence rates for substance abuse disorders and conduct disorders between ages 10 and 12 years and 13 and 15 years among indigenous adolescents, with these disorders affecting more than one fourth of the children. The rate of lifetime conduct disorder is about twice that expected in general population studies (23.4% versus 5%-10%), and the rate of lifetime substance abuse disorder (27.2%) is three times that reported in the 2004 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (9.4%) for individuals 12 years or older. Prevalence rates for any single mental or substance use disorder (44.8 lifetime) for the 13- to 15-year-olds are similar to the lifetime prevalence rates reported in the National Comorbidity Survey-Replication (46.4%) for individuals 18 years and older. Conclusions: A mental health crisis exists on the indigenous reservations and reserves that participated in this study. Current service systems are overwhelmed and unable to meet the demands placed upon them.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)890-900
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • American Indian adolescents
  • Mental health
  • Prevalence of psychiatric diagnoses


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