Latent subtypes of youth in psychiatric residential care [2017]

• Four latent classes of youth in psychiatric residential treatment were identified.

• Class similarities included early onset of externalizing behavior and severe impairment.

• Class differences were found in the psychiatric, behavioral, family, and maltreatment profiles.

In current practice, residential care programs in the United States are often more general than specialized with little demonstrated results of effectiveness for different types of youth. Subgroup analyses focused on developing a thorough understanding of the subpopulation of youth served in residential group care have potential to inform targeted program development. Using assessment records of a sample of 447 youth in psychiatric residential treatment, a latent class analysis was performed to identify youth subtypes. The results revealed four classes of youth characterized by severe levels of functional impairment and externalizing behavioral problems. Class distinctions were observed in the areas of psychiatric diagnoses, child behavioral problems and strengths, family characteristics, and maltreatment histories. An examination of class profiles lends support for the applicability of some general approaches across therapeutic residential programs, including the use of trauma-informed care and family-centered practice frameworks. The findings further demonstrate the need to also include program elements that are specified to the types of youth the program is designed to treat. Implications for policy and developing specified treatment protocol matched to the types of youth served in psychiatric residential programs are discussed.

Shamra M. Boel-Studt

Children and Youth Services Review, Volume 77, June 2017