Police Stops Among At-Risk Youth: Repercussions for Mental Health

Dylan B. Jackson, Chantal Fahmy, Michael G. Vaughn, Alexander Testa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The aim of the study was to examine the proximate mental health consequences of stressful and emotionally charged interactions with police officers among a national sample of at-risk youth who have been stopped by the police. Methods: A sample of 918 youth (average age 15 years) in the U.S. who reported being stopped by police in the most recent wave (2014–2017) of the Fragile Families & Child Wellbeing Study was used in the present study. Results: Although age at first stop was not associated with mental health outcomes, youth stopped by police more frequently were more likely to report heightened emotional distress and posttraumatic stress symptoms. Findings also indicate that being stopped at school and officer intrusiveness were potent predictors of these adverse emotional and mental health responses to the stop. Conclusions: Under certain circumstances, the police stop can result in feelings of stigma and trauma among at-risk youth. Youth may benefit when school counselors or social workers provide mental health screenings and offer counseling care after police encounters, particularly when such encounters are intrusive and/or occur at school.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)627-632
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Nov

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The FFCWS is supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health under award numbers R01HD36916 , R01HD39135 , and R01HD40421 , as well as a consortium of private foundations. The authors received no direct support from these funding sources for this analysis.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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


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