Gender Differences in Delinquent Trajectories: The Mediating Roles of Family Relationships and Peer Influence

Veronica M. Herrera, University of Arizona
Laura McCloskey, Harvard School of Public Health

It is undeniable that girls and boys involved in the juvenile justice system share many of the same or similar characteristics, with considerable overlap in the causes/correlates of offending. Despite the similarities between male and female juvenile offenders, some scholars argue that the substantial developmental and social differences between females and males shape gender differnces in type, frequency, context, and pathways of delinquent behavior. Factors that have been identified as chief causes of female delinquent behavior include histories of victimization and severe family dysfunction. Female delinquency has been typically traced back to severe problems in intimate/family relationships and less often to outside family influences. This is not to say that boys are not vulnerable to family strain, but that other pressures (e.g. peer influence and opportunities for crime) are sufficiently strong to create alternate pathways to delinquency. Using a sample of boys and girls participating in a longitudinal study on the family, this paper examines gender differences in frequency and context of official reports of juvenile delinquency and investigates gender differences in delinquent trajectories through the mechanisms of attachment to family and peer influence.

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Updated 05/20/2006