Children prescribed antibiotics have been found to have twice the risk of developing the condition compared to children of the same age who did not take antibiotics.
The more antibiotics prescribed, the higher the risk, particularly within one year of taking the medication.
Juvenile arthritis is an autoimmune disease where joints become chronically inflamed. It can also affect the eyes and can lead to pain, vision loss and disability.
One in four children who develop the condition have a genetic predisposition but it is thought that environmental triggers also play an important role.
Using a database with information on over 11 million people across the UK, the researchers compared children with newly diagnosed juvenile arthritis with children of the same age and gender who did not have the condition.
It was found that children who received prescriptions for antibiotics had an increased risk of developing juvenile arthritis.
The researchers also found that upper respiratory tract infections treated with antibiotics were more strongly associated with juvenile arthritis than untreated upper respiratory tract infections.
Daniel Horton, lead author of the study at Rutgers University of Pennsylvania said previous studies had indicated that about 25pc of antibiotics prescribed to children and half of antibiotics prescribed for acute respiration infections “are probably unnecessary.
“Our research suggests another possible reason to avoid antibiotic overuse for infections that would otherwise get better on their own.”
He cautioned, however, that antibiotics were clearly not the only factor in juvenile arthritis and said more research was needed.
The findings are published in Pediatrics, a peer reviewed journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.