This paper discusses the prevalence and impact of trauma and traumatic stress among youth in the juvenile justice system and describes emerging responses for identifying and treating these problems. Child traumatic stress occurs when children and adolescents are exposed to traumatic events or situations, and this exposure overwhelms their ability to cope with what they have experienced. Estimates of the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among youth in the juvenile justice population varied widely at the time when this publication was written. Despite these variations, evidence suggested that many youth involved with the juvenile justice system have experienced traumatic events and suffer from PTSD.

This resource makes the case that traumatic stress services have the capacity to relieve the suffering caused by psychological trauma and PTSD for youth and families involved in the juvenile justice system, as well as to potentially reduce future health, mental health, and correctional costs.

The National Center for Youth Opportunity and Justice (NCYOJ) originally developed and maintained this resource. The NCYOJ was operated by Policy Research, Inc. and operated from 2001 to 2022 and was formerly known as the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice. The NCYOJ improved life opportunities for youth through systems and practice improvement initiatives.

This resource should be viewed as a reference document. It has not been updated since its publication. In addition, this document has not been made 508 compliant. If you would like a 508 compliant version of this document, please email

This resource was first shared in 2007.

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