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Juvenile Delinquency: Review of Main Topics

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When the term juvenile delinquent is heard it is almost certain that someone pictures a group of young boys running the street getting into trouble. However, most will be surprised that the face of a juvenile delinquent is rapidly changing. Now there is a chance it could be a thirteen to eighteen year old girl. While boys are guilty of most of the juvenile crimes committed, the number of female juveniles involved with the justice system has been consistently growing over the years. 

According to Understanding the Female Offender, by Elizabeth Cauffman, female delinquent and criminal acts have multiplied dramatically within the past few years. “In 1980, boys were four times as likely to be arrested than females; today they are only twice as likely to be arrested”. Crime rates are reducing nationally for both male and female youth, however the rate for females has been decreasing slower. According to the National Data Profile on girls in juvenile justice, since 1997, there has been at eighteen percent decrease in boys’ incarceration rates compared to eight percent decrease for girls. 

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The rate of incarceration for girls age ten to seventeen decreased from 99 per 100,000 in 1997 to 91 per 100,000 in 2006. Recently, researchers began focusing more on female juvenile delinquency and the causes behind the behavior. It is clear that female delinquent behavior corresponds with unique biological, physiological, and sociological factors; understanding this information will be useful in establishing recommended programs to prevent delinquent behavior and to reduce recidivism rates amongst female youths. Before all this can happen, it is vital to recognize the role female juvenile delinquency performs within society.

With the recent research expansion on female delinquency we can better understand the causes of why female youth are committing more crimes. It is important to understand who these females are and where they come from. Several individuals, family, and environmental risk factors are related to delinquency and entry into the juvenile justice system among female youth. Those most commonly noted as precursors to delinquent behavior consist of maltreatment, poverty, mental health, family issues, substance abuse, and their intersection. 

These risk factors often have greater impact on females. Many females enter the system as victimized offenders. Abuse is a common denominator among girls in the system with estimates ranging from fifty six to eighty eight percent of girls who report emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. Child abuse is also a big precursor to delinquent behavior in females. In one study, girls who experienced some form of physical abuse during their childhood or adolescence were found to be fifty nine percent more likely to be arrested as a juvenile than children who had not been victimized. 

Additionally, the same study noted that victims of sexual abuse were seven times more likely to commit a violent offense. (Lane 3). When these problems are unaddressed, we can expect that females will be unable to successfully cope with stress or anger. These emotions appear in behaviors that society refers to as “acting out,” “drama,” or “lashing out.” Females also have a high risk for delinquency when they reach puberty at an early age. Early maturation creates specific risk for girls because of the development of physical signs of maturity inconsistent with still mostly undeveloped psychological features and emotional systems.

These girls are more likely to be involved in high risk behaviors. This is known as the contemporary trait view of female delinquency. This view also states that hormone imbalance could cause aggressive behavior in young girls. Research on aggression in girls and assaults committed by girls suggest that these behaviors can be best understood in the context of their families, peer groups, schools, communities, and experiences. Family support alone is vital when predicting delinquency. 

Family moral structure and criminal activity of parents or guardians are suspected to impact the tendency of an adolescent to have in delinquent behaviors. The communities that these young girls grow up in also affect their chance of antisocial behavior. Neighborhood traits which includes poverty, family structures, and social disorganization. These neighborhood traits relate to risky behaviors, school dropouts, health outcomes, exposure to and use of violence, and crime and delinquency. 

Peers are also a precursors to delinquent behavior. When adolescents are out with their peers most likely there is no parental supervision or guidance, which increases the likelihood of criminal acts. All of these factors correspondingly put a young female at risk for delinquent behavior. The different causes of why a female commit crimes relates to the different types of criminal acts these adolescents perform. Females are engaged in an assortment of contrasting criminal activity. While men have greater probability to engage in criminal acts, women offenders dominate certain categories of crimes. One of these crimes in prostitution, or sometime called victimless crime.  

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