Gender and Juvenile Justice: What About Girls?

Meda Chesney-Lind, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Joanne Belknap, University of Colorado - Boulder

Increases in girls' arrests have dramatically outstripped those of boys for most of the last decade. Girls now account for 28 percent of juvenile arrests up from 23 percent at the beginning of the last decade, and attention is being drawn to the fact that their arrests for non-traditional, even violent, offenses are among those showing the greatest increases. This paper provides a critical examination of these trends in female juvenile delinquency with a specific focus on current research examining trends in girls' traditional and non-traditional forms of female delinquency.

The treatment of girls in the juvenile justice system, and more specifically trends in the detention of girls, will also be explored. The last decade (1988-1997), saw the number of female delinquency cases involving detention increase by 65 percent increase while boy's detentions increased by 30 perceny.

Traditional delinquency prevention and intervention programs were shaped around boy's needs and problems, but in recent years federal support has caused a flowering of programmatic innovations as gender specific programming received financial support. There is a growing need to critically assess the effectiveness of these state and federal efforts to make juvenile justice more responsive to girl's problems.

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Updated 05/20/2006