Gender Differences In Juvenile Delinquency Research Paper

Introduction More than 2 million juveniles are arrested each year with nearly 600,000 entering into juvenile incarceration. (Kapp, Petr, Robbins, & Choi, 2013) There has been a steady increase of youthful female offenders. From the early nineties up until about 2006, simple assault crimes have decreased “4% for male juveniles and it increased 19% for females” (Espinosa, Sorensen, & Lopez, 2013).

“25 to 50 percent of antisocial girls commit crimes as adults (Pajer, 1998)”. Similar risk factors may play a role in both girls’ and boys’ delinquency. Gender differences in underlying biological functions, psychological traits and social interpretation can result in different types and rates of delinquent behaviors for girls and boys (Moffitt, T. E. , Caspi, A. , Rutter, M. , and Silva, P. A. , 2001). The purpose of this paper is to examine the contributing factors that lead to juvenile delinquency among adolescent girls and whether mentorship may reduce recidivism.

Literature Review Biological Risk Factor Child abuse, neglect, and placement in the child welfare system are simultaneous associated with higher rates of delinquents in the juvenile justice system. “A child is abused or neglected every three hours in Washington, DC (Children’s Defense Fund)”. Risk taking behaviors, including delinquency can be the direct result of exposure to severe and cumulative stressors (Mc Barrett, Raine, Stouthamer-Loeber, Loeber, Kumar, Kumar, M. , Lahey, B. B. , 2010).

Male and female delinquents report different types of trauma. “Wards 7 and 8 comprise over half of all substantiated cases of abuse in the district, with the number of 360 in ward 7 and 670 in ward 8 reporting abuse (DC Action for Children)”. Girls in the juvenile justice system more often experience sexual abuse and rape then boys (Hennessy, Ford, Mahoney, Ko, Siegfried, 2004: Snyder, 2003). According to research, “girls in the California juvenile justice system, 92% report some form of emotional, physical or sexual abuse. Acoca, Dedel, 1998) Females are usually victims of abuse before they commit their first crime. “Abuse is directly linked with subsequent violent behaviors, with one and four violent girls having been sexually abused compared with one and ten nonviolent girls (New York: Teachers College Press, 1999). Female offenders experience higher rates of victimization, and “have more limited abilities to cope with such stressors, thereby magnifying their effect (Dornfield, Kruttschnitt, 1992). There are gender differences in biological coping mechanisms to stress.

Both males and females exhibit “fight or flight” neuroendocrine responses to stress but males appear to be more likely to engage in fight or flight behaviors”, while females usually engage in a coping mechanism described as “tend and befriend” (Klein, L. C. , Corwin, E. J. , 2002). Once the threat is fully observed and it is determined that the threat can be physically dominated, then attack is likely. In scenarios in which the threat is “perceived to be more formidable, flight is more probable. Tending involves nurturing behaviors that are “designed to protect the self and offspring” that reduces stress; “befriending is the creation and maintenance of social networks that may aid in this process. ” Neuroendocrine evidence shows oxytocin coupled with females reproductive hormones are at the core of this response to stress. (Taylor, Klein, Lewis, Grunewald, Gurung, Updegraff, 2010).

“Early maturing girls are more likely to engage in delinquency and risk taking behaviors” (Graber, Sweet, Brooks-Gunn, Lewinsohn, 2004). Girls who mature early tend to ngage in very high risk behaviors which include substance abuse, running away and truancy (Caspi, A. and Moffitt, 1991). According to Moffitt (1993), “adolescence experience a maturity gap between their biological development and their desire to attain adult status. ” Females use delinquency to gain independence and to prove one self. The early onset of puberty for females can lead to delinquency due to physical signs of maturity that are inconsistent with immature thinking and emotion response systems (Garber, Brooks-Gunn and Warren, 1999).

Females who develop early are more likely to date older males at a younger age. Associations with deviant males often encourage negative behaviors that can lead to and/or further encourage delinquency. Delinquent adolescent females “who become romantically involved with delinquent (compared to non-delinquent) partners, are likely to continue offending. “Girls involved in delinquency were more likely than those who were not to experience high levels of antisocial encouragement by romantic partners.

Alternatively, for females who have already offended, “the selection of pro-social or non-delinquent partners promotes desistance from antisocial behavior” (Harandi and Oudekerk, 2009). Psychological Risk Factors A direct connection between youth in the juvenile justice system and mental health disorders can be concluded According to Kapp, Petr, Robbins, and Choi over half of the youth in the juvenile justice system meet criteria for “diagnosable mental health disorders”, and those who have these disorders eventually commit crimes that result in their detainment.

Boys are more likely to be diagnosed with attention deficit and conduct disorder. (Barbaresi, Katusic, Colligan, Pankratz, Weaver, Weber, Mrazek, and Jacobsen, 2002) Females are diagnosed with “mental health problems linked to life struggles and experiences of victimization, such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder(Teplin, Abram, McClelland, Dulcan, and Mericle, 2002). According to (Skowyra and Cocozza 2007; Teplin et al. 002; Wasserman et al 2004) “studies consistently document that 65 to 70 percent of youth met criteria for a diagnosable mental health disorders”. It stated “repeated exposure to direct, interpersonal traumas places female delinquents at particular risk for the development of PTSD” (Wood et al. 2002).

According to Telling, et al. , 2002, “21. 6% of the detained girls met the criteria for a Major Depressive Episode versus 13% of detained boys. Shapter et al. , U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2000) This is roughly four times the national average. “30. 8% of girls that were incarcerated met the criteria for any anxiety disorder. Of these females, 18. 5% suffer from separation anxiety. (Waddell, Offord, Shepard, Hau, McEwan, 2001) 49% to 55% of detained adolescent females suffer from PTSD as a result of various childhood abuses (Snyder and Sickmond, 1999).