'I Wasn't Really Bonded With My Family': A Framework for Understanding Violent Female Offending

Judith A. Ryder, John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Feminist research, however, has long suggested a link between child victimization and later delinquency and has urged the development of theory that incorporates girl's victimization experiences.

Using a grounded theory approach, this study analyzed semi-structured interviews conducted with 24 adolescent girls adjudicated and remanded to custody in New York State for assault or robbery. The data suggest a framework that supports the critical affect of early childhood trauma, particularly losses and victimizations, on the later development of violent behaviors. The cumulative effect of traumatic events, combined with a disruption of parental attachment and deficient social supports, contributed to the young women's use of maladaptive, primarily avoidant, coping strategies. When those measures were insufficient in defending against emotional distress, violence became an alternative course.

While the research sought a better understanding of violence perpetrated by young women, its findings have important implications for youth violence in general.

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Updated 05/20/2006