Evidence Lacking On Girl Violence; Case of Media Overkill?


Many news stories have suggested that “American girls are becoming more violent,” says the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. A Long Island schoolyard attack on a 13-year-old girl by other girls is one of them. A pending U.S. Justice Department report will say that, “We don’t have good evidence that [violence by girls] is increasing. We think it’s not getting worse,” said Margaret Zahn, lead investigator for the Girls Study Group, a panel assembled by the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. “The media [approach] is always, ‘If it bleeds, it leads.’ I do wish the media would be more careful about how these things are reported.”

Last week, “CBS Evening News” featured James Garbarino, author of “See Jane Hit: Why Girls Are Growing More Violent and What We Can Do About It.” The consensus of most criminologists is that the “crisis” of girl violence is probably overblown, inflated by statistics from reporting standards that didn’t exist years ago — such as school zero tolerance policies and increased reporting of domestic violence. “The empirical evidence shows it is a myth,” says Penn State criminologist Darrell Steffensmeier. “There are a lot of unanswered questions. But if you take the best evidence we have, the rates aren’t any higher.” Cindy Ness of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, who has studied African-American girls in Philadelphia, says street-fighting among girls in low-income areas is “significantly underestimated. I think it’s largely an inner-city phenomenon. I think it’s ratcheted up. But it’s not to say it’s crazy out of control. It’s not this sense of Girls Gone Wild! It’s more subtle than that.”

Link: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07028/757491-84.stm

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