Girls' Delinquency and Violence: Making the Case for Gender-Responsive Programming

Meda Chesney-Lind, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Sibylle Artz, University of Victoria
Diana Nicholson, University of Victoria

Increases in girls' arrests have dramatically outstripped those of boys for most of the last decade. Girls now account for one out of four arrests, and attention is being called to the fact that their arrests for non-traditional, even violent, offenses are among those showing the greatest increases. These shifts and changes all bring into sharp focus the need to better understand the dynamics involved in female delinquency and the need to tailor responses to the unique circumstances of girls growing up in the new millennium. This paper examines the prevalence of female juvenile delinquency and reviews the literature from a sociological and practice perspective. Specifically, we focus attention on girls' aggression and violence and argue that close analysis of the data indicates that changes in arrests of girls for certain violent offenses reflect complex changes in the policing of girl's aggression (including the arrest of girl's for minor forms of family violence) rather than actual changes in girls' behavior. We compare what's happening to girls in the United States to the experiences of delinquent girls in Canada. Finally, we briefly review trends in the treatment of girls by the juvenile justice system, and we discuss the emerging literature on promising interventions with girls.

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Updated 05/20/2006