Katherine Lau Co-Authors Research Papers in Peer-Reviewed Journals

Katherine Lau of the Psychology Department has co-authored three research articles in peer-reviewed journals (Journal of Juvenile Justice, American Journal of Preventive Medicine, American Journal of Orthopsychiatry) in the areas of juvenile justice, mental health, and disproportionate minority contact, that have just been released.

Examining the influence of ethnic/racial socialization on aggressive behaviors among juvenile offenders. Journal of Juvenile Justice.

Risk assessment instruments are commonly used within the juvenile justice system to estimate a juvenile’s likelihood of reoffending or engaging in aggressive or violent behavior. Although such instruments assess a broad range of factors, the influence of culture is often excluded. The current study examines the unique effects of ethnic/racial socialization on recent aggressive behaviors above and beyond three well-established risk and protective factors: delinquency history, moral disengagement, and social support. Participants were 95 juveniles who were either on probation or in detention centers in three Midwestern counties and who completed structured surveys related to personal experiences within and outside of the juvenile justice system. The findings provided partial support for our hypotheses: Consistent with previous findings, delinquency history and moral disengagement were significant predictors of recent aggressive behavior. Furthermore, when ethnic/racial socialization was added to the model, the promotion of mistrust provided additional predictive validity for aggressive behavior above and beyond the other factors assessed. Based on these findings, the inclusion of education on culture may prove to be an important supplement to established intervention tools for juvenile offenders.

Mortality of youth offenders along a continuum of justice system involvement. American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Introduction: Black male youth are at high risk of homicide and criminal justice involvement. This study aimed to determine how early mortality among youth offenders varies based on race; gender; and the continuum of justice system involvement: arrest, detention, incarceration, and transfer to adult courts. Methods: Criminal and death records of 49,479 youth offenders (ages 10-18 years at first arrest) in Marion County, Indiana, from January 1, 1999, to December 31, 2011, were examined. Statistical analyses were completed in November 2014. Results: From 1999 to 2011 (aggregate exposure, 386,709 person-years), 518 youth offender deaths occurred. The most common cause of death was homicide (48.2%). The mortality rate of youth offenders was nearly 1.5 times greater than that among community youth (standardized mortality ratio, 1.48). The youth offender mortality rate varied depending on the severity of justice system involvement. Arrested youth had the lowest rate of mortality (90/100,000), followed by detained youth (165/100,000); incarcerated youth (216/100,000); and youth transferred to adult court (313/100,000). A proportional hazards model demonstrated that older age, male gender, and more severe justice system involvement 5 years post-arrest predicted shorter time to mortality. Conclusions: Youth offenders face greater risk for early death than community youth. Among these, black male youth face higher risk of early mortality than their white male counterparts. However, regardless of race/ethnicity, mortality rates for youth offenders increase as youth involvement in the justice system becomes more protracted and severe. Thus, justice system involvement is a significant target for intervention.

The effects of racial heterogeneity on mental health: A study on detained youth across multiple counties. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 85, 421-430. doi: 10.1037/ort0000100

A majority of detained adolescents experience mental health and substance use problems. Limited research has examined the interaction between the race/ethnicity of an individual youth and county-level racial heterogeneity on adolescent mental health outcomes. Participants were identified through a statewide mental health screen project that took place in detention centers across 11 different counties in a Midwestern state during January 1, 2008, to May 10, 2010. A total of 23,831 detained youth (ages 11-18 years), identified as non-Hispanic White (46.6%), Black (43.5%), or Hispanic (9.8%), completed a mental health screener that assessed problems in alcohol/drug use, depression-anxiety, anger-irritability, trauma, somatic complaints, and suicide ideation. Census data were gathered to determine the racial heterogeneity of each county and other county-level variables. Hierarchical linear regression analyses were used to test the independent and interactive effects of youth race/ethnicity and county-level variables (including racial heterogeneity of the county) on adolescent mental health. Independent of other community characteristics, as county-level racial heterogeneity increased, mental health problems among detained youth decreased. In future research on the development and persistence of mental health problems in detained youth, both community and individual-level factors should be considered.