Delinquent Girls: Develpmental Considerations and Public Policy Implications

Elizabeth Cauffman, University of Pittsburgh

Although the overall juvenile crime rate has been falling for the past several years, the violent crime rate among adolescent females has grown faster and fallen more slowly than the rate among males (Snyder & Sickmund, 1999). The goal of the present paper is to provide a more detailed description of the female offender in comparison to both male offenders and non-incarcerated youth, and to examine the implications of these findings for both practice and policy. The data for the present study were obtained from adolescents attending public high schools in Northern California and adolescents incarcerated in the California Youth Authority. The youth ranged in age from 14 to 19; about half were female. Results frm this study indicate that among incarcerated populations, girls are more likely than boys to exhibit both internalizing and externalizing symptoms. In addition, female offenders appear to have experienced significantly more trauma than males. In this sample, 60% had been raped, and 90% had witnessed a murder. Findings from this study may help guide our understanding of female offenders, promote more effective, gender-appropriate interventions, and provide a scientific foundation for policy-makers debating the proper treatment of both male and female juvenile offenders.

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Updated 05/20/2006