Mental disorder and comorbidity among runaway and homeless adolescents

Les B. Whitbeck, Kurt D. Johnson, Dan R. Hoyt, Ana Mari Cauce

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations


Purpose To investigate prevalence of mental disorder and comorbidity among homeless and runaway adolescents in small to medium sized cities in four Midwestern states. Methods The study presents lifetime, 12-month prevalence, and comorbidity rates for five mental disorders (conduct disorder, major depressive episode, posttraumatic stress disorder, alcohol abuse, and drug abuse) based on UM-CIDI and DISC-R structured interviews from the baseline interviews of a longitudinal diagnostic study of 428 (187 males; 241 females) homeless and runaway adolescents aged 16-19 years (mean age = 17.4 years, SD = 1.05). The data were collected by full-time street interviewers on the streets and in shelters in eight Midwestern cities of various populations. Separate logistic regression models were used to investigate factors associated with meeting criteria for any disorder and two or more disorders. Results Lifetime prevalence rates were compared with rates for same-aged respondents from the National Comorbidity Survey (NCS). Homeless and runaway adolescents were six times more likely than same-aged NCS respondents to meet criteria for two or more disorders and were from two to 17 times more likely to meet criteria for individual disorders than. Conclusions Homeless and runaway adolescents in small and mid-sized Midwestern cities report significant levels of mental disorder and comorbidity that are comparable and often exceed that reported in studies of larger magnet cities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)132-140
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2004


  • Conduct disorder
  • Mental disorder
  • Runaway adolescents

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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