Rising Girls Delinquency: Real Spike Or Change In Society’s Response?


The rate of girls’ arrests compared to boys’ for most types of offenses increased in the decade through 2000, making girls accountable for 30 percent of arrests, but it still is not clear whether this was an actual increase in girls’ delinquency or changes in societal responses to their behavior, says the Girls Study Group of the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquenty Prevention. In a new paper summarizing research on the subject, the panel of experts said that “early puberty, coupled with stressors such as conflict with parents and involvement with delinquent (and often older) male peers, is a risk factor unique to girls.”

The paper identifies eight factors that are significantly correlated with girls' delinquency. They are: negative and critical mothers, harsh discipline, inconsistent discipline, family conflict, frequent family moves, multiple caregivers, longer periods of time with a single parent, and growing up in socioeconomically disadvantaged families. New research should address these factors in efforts to understand and address girls' delinquency, said the group, which is headed by Stephanie Hawkins of RTI International. The group also urged attention to arrest policies that widen the net (especially those dealing with conflicts between adolescent girls and their parents) and detention of girls because community-based alternatives are lacking.

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