Chapter 5: Female Delinquency  

·         Similarities and differences between male and female delinquency

·          girls offenses less serious

·          crimes committed by boys more varied

·          half of all girls arrested are arrested for one of two offenses:

·         larceny theft (which for girls is usually shoplifting)

·         Running away from home.

 Status Offenses & Girls  

·         Status offenses have always been paramount in girls’ referrals

·         60% of those referred for running away are girls

·         13% of girls are in correctional facilities for status offenses, compared to just 3% of all boys

·         Just under one-fourth of girls are in juvenile court for a criminal offense

Abuse & Status Offenses 

·         For girls running away stems from abuse, especially sexual abuse

·   Some estimate that 70% of girls who run away have been sexually abused

·   As many as 2/3 of girls in detention have been sexually abused

·         Girls and boys do not inhabit the same worlds, and they do not have the same choices.

·         This is not to say that girls do not share some problems with boys (notably the burdens of class and race), but even the manner in which these attributes affect the daily lives of young people is heavily mediated by gender.

Extent of Female Delinquency  

         Arrests of males outnumber female arrests by more than a 2:1 ratio

         Boys more likely to be arrested for violent crimes and serious property crimes

         Other “masculine offenses”

·        Possession of stolen property, vandalism, weapons offenses, “other assaults,” drugs.

         “Feminine offenses”

·        running away, prostitution, shoplifting

         Girls close to boys in curfew violations

 Distribution of Arrests 

         Note tables 5-1 and 5-2 revealing noteworthy differences

         See especially in Table 5-2, showing that:

        Rank order of offenses for girls barely changed in 10 years

        The top five constituted 2/3 of all girl offenses, compared to just over half of all boy offenses

        Note the small % of violent crimes committed by girls

        Little evidence girls “catching up with boys” as far as violence is concerned – most of the “catching up” is for “other assaults”

 Girls Share of All Arrests  

·         As noted in table 5-3 girls as a % of all juvenile arrests changed from 1994 to 2003

·         Biggest changes were in larceny-theft (+8%), other assaults (+8%), disorderly conduct (+7%), aggravated assault (+6%)

·         Changes in other assaults and aggravated assaults may stem from changes in public policies rather than in actual behaviors

·         Disorderly conduct – are girls really more disorderly?  

Arrest Rates 

·         Note table 5-4 and how rates for both sexes have gone down

·         Exception seems to be “other assaults” and disorderly conduct– Why the increase in these two offenses?

·         Clearly there was a change in crime control policies, resulting in the targeting of certain kinds of offenses

·         Regardless, there is no evidence of the claim about America being invaded by “super-predators”!!

Nature of Female Delinquency  


      Young people (esp. girls) are especially sensitive to the consumer culture: they steal things they feel they need, or indeed may actually need but cannot afford.

      Women constitute a large proportion of those who shop, spend more time doing it as a pastime, and consequently are exposed to greater temptation.

      girls are more likely than boys to shoplift cosmetics and clothes; boys are more likely to steal electronic items (and also steal items they give to girls)

      girls spend more time shopping, are more carefully watched by store detectives, who report they are suspicious of young people in groups, particularly if they are not dressed well

 Status Offenses

·         (23%) of girls in residential placement are in for status offenses, compared to only 4% of the boys.

·         Parents apply a double standard, which is one explanation for the over-representation of girls charged with status offenses in court

 Importance of Sexual Abuse 

·         Childhood sexual abuse often leads girls into behaviors such as running away from home or other status offenses.

·         Effects of abuse last longer

·         fear, anxiety, depression, anger and hostility, and inappropriate sexual behavior, running away from home, difficulties in school, truancy, and early marriage and others are among the long-term effects

·         Note the findings from surveys of females in correctional institutions

·         girls’ problem behavior commonly relates to an abusive and traumatizing home, life, whereas boys' law violating behavior reflects their involvement in a delinquent life style

·         Also, most prostitutes report sexual abuse early in life

 Prostitution among Girls 

·         There are an estimated 1.3 million prostitutes in America, with around 500,000 under 18

·         Between 40 percent and 75 percent of teenage prostitutes have been the victims of physical and/or sexual abuse.

·         Most have come from dysfunctional families characterized by alcoholism or drug abuse, physical abuse, and neglect

·         This is not so much a choice as a survival mechanism for those who have few other options once forced onto the streets

·         The case of Sheri noted in the text illustrates this. 

Girls and Violence 

·         Much hype and exaggeration from media, based mostly on anecdotal evidence

·         What is “anecdotal” evidence? How does this differ from “empirical” evidence?

·         W.I.S.E.

v  Withhold information that is contrary to your opinion; Identify that which is consistent with your opinion; Sensationalize that which is consistent with your opinion; Expand it as if it is representative of the whole.

v  So it is with girls and violence and most of the news reporting concerning crime and delinquency

Re-labeling Status Offenses 

·         Blacks women and girls were 3 times more likely to be arrested than whites

·         Maryland study found that half of girls referred to juvenile court for “person offenses” were “family centered” and involved such activities as “a girl hitting her mother and her mother subsequently pressing charges”

·         Same findings from a study of 1,000 cases in Calif.

Aggression and Gender 

·         As a result girls often engage in “horizontal violence” directed at other powerless girls (often with boys as the audience).

·         familial patriarchy supports the abuse of women who violate the ideals of male power and control over women

·         Girls often respond by “policing” other girls’ behavior and thereby reinforce this patriarchy – and contribute to their own subordination

·         Those in oppressed situations typically take it out on those similarly situated rather than the true objects of their oppression

 Girls and Robbery 

·         Juvenile robbery is different than the stereotype would suggest

·         It is the “low‑yield,” criminal “mischief” category of offenses, rather than the stereotypical “armed robbery” like mugging or bank robbery

·         Mostly involves stealing from fellow peers who have material possessions

·         Often done for thrills and excitement and a desire to target kids who are perceived as “show‑offs”

·         Rarely planned in advanced and done in groups of two or more.

·         Very gender-specific - boys more aggressive (more likely to use weapons), girls less so

·         For both, getting money and ‘status conferring goods,” such as jewelry, are the primary motivations for committing the offense for both males and females