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The Nature of Girls' Crime

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Introduction

Girls' involvement in delinquency and crime, though still less than boys', appears to have increased significantly in the past two decades. There is, however, little knowledge about the causes of girls' violence, and few studies have been conducted on young women's delinquency and crime. This article reviews current research on girls' violent behavior, the factors contributing to it, and effective programming strategies to prevent it. The Nature of Girls' Crime Although girls are involved in more violent crime than they were a decade ago, violent crimes accounted for only 3.4 percent of girls' arrests in 1994 (Chesney-Lind and Brown, 1999). Part of the increase in their arrest rate for violent crimes may be attributable to changes in the way girls are charged. For example, a girl who shoves her parents in self-defense as she tries to run away is now likely to be arrested for assault, which is a criminal offense; previously, she would have been arrested for the lesser offense of running away (Chesney-Lind and Shelden, 1998). Nonetheless, girls continue to be arrested predominantly for "status" offenses (considered offenses only because the perpetrator is a minor), such as running away or violating curfews (Chesney-Lind and Shelden, 1998). ...read more.

Middle

The increase in female violence was attributed to the perpetrator's renunciation of stereotypically female characteristics and values in favor of the corresponding male characteristics and values. The women's movement, which fostered assertiveness and was said to encourage young women to adopt certain "male behaviors" (drinking, stealing, and fighting), was blamed as well (Adler, 1975). Subsequent research, including data showing that the increase in female crime was really not significant, discredited most of these findings (Chesney-Lind and Shelden, 1998). Current research on adolescent violence and delinquency considers how social class, race, ethnicity, and culture interact to cause young women to behave violently (Chesney-Lind and Shelden, 1998). It also helps explain why girls join gangs, which is to develop skills to survive in their harsh communities and temporarily escape a dismal future (Campbell, 1991; Chesney-Lind, Shelden, and Joe, 1996). Violent young women are more likely than their nonviolent counterparts to come from troubled or violent families. A home life characterized by poverty, divorce, parental death, abandonment, alcoholism, and frequent abuse leaves girls quick to anger, distrust, and exact revenge (Artz, 1998; Koroki and Chesney-Lind, 1985). ...read more.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, funding for programs that address the unique needs of delinquent girls has been low: in 1975, for example, only 25 percent of funds donated by corporations supported programs for girls (Chesney-Lind and Shelden, 1998). A recent review of youth programs showed that only 2.3 percent of delinquency programs specifically served girls. The few existing programs that are effective with at-risk young women share certain elements, including educational and occupational support, a comprehensive counseling component that addresses their unique needs, and provisions for meeting the needs of women who are unable to remain with their families (Chesney-Lind and Shelden, 1998). Effective programs also provide young women with access to caring adults and organized community activities. Finally, because male violence and aggression against young women are often factors in female delinquency and violence, separate intervention programs need to be developed for aggressive and violent men and boys. This would minimize the risk of female victimization and, in turn, reduce the risk of girls' participation in violence. Source Weiler, J. 1999. Girls and Violence. New York: ERIC Clearinghouse on Urban Education. ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 430 069. ...read more.

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