Dissertations and Theses @ UNI


Thesis (UNI Access Only)


Mentally ill teenagers; Juvenile corrections--Employees--Attitudes;


The ability to identify dangerousness in childhood is of critical importance, especially given recent school shootings and mass murders across the United States. While most people who are mentally ill are not violent, the perception that people with mental illness are dangerous persists (Arboleda-Florez, Holley & Crisanti, 1998). Youth are most often identified or diagnosed as having mental illness symptoms in one of two settings: educational and juvenile justice contexts (Burns et al., 1995). Given the overrepresentation of mental illness in the juvenile justice system (Shufelt & Cocozza, 2006; Teplin, Abram, McClelland, Dulcan, & Mericle, 2002; Wasserman, Ko, & Reynolds, 2004), it is important to gather information on relevant professionals’ perspectives on mental illness. The purpose of this study was to identify attitudes toward youth with mental illness, perceived risk for future violence, and recommendations for these youth from professionals working in judicial and school systems. In the current study, middle- and high-school teachers, Juvenile Court School Liaisons (JCSLs), who are employees of the school system who work to provide support to at-risk youth, and Juvenile Court Officers (JCOs; also known as “Juvenile Probation Officers” in other states; employees of the judicial system who work to rehabilitate deviant youth) from Iowa read vignettes depicting an adolescent experiencing mental illness symptoms (Alcohol Use Disorder [AUD], Major Depressive Disorder [MDD], and Oppositional Defiant Disorder [ODD]), or a control vignette depicting a “troubled child.” Participants then completed an online questionnaire pertaining to the vignette, in which they rated perceived dangerousness, intervention recommendations, and other general risk ssessment information. When controlling for gender, school teachers and JCSLs perceived the person in the vignette as more dangerous than JCOs. The student in the Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) vignette was perceived as the most dangerous. JCOs were more confident in their ability to identify violent behaviors and mental illness in youth than school teachers and JCSLs, but were not better at correctly identifying the mental illness being depicted in the vignettes than JCSLs and school teachers. This information may be helpful for professionals working with youth with mental illness in terms of referral and service selection.

Year of Submission


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Department of Psychology

First Advisor

Helen C. Harton, Chair

Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (vi, 99 pages)



File Format


Off-Campus Download