Youth violence, and particularly violence carried out by girls, has been the subject of intense media attention recently, with an ever-increasing number of girls portrayed as carrying guns in their mouths and participating in violent crime. Although the percentage of girls' involvement in delinquency and crime has increased in the last two decades, it is still far below the level of boys' involvement, and it differs quite significantly.
There is a paucity of literature on girls' violence, as most research on youth violence does not distinguish between girls and boys. The most comprehensive and extensive literature reviews on young women's crime and delinquency have been conducted by Meda Chesney-Lind and her associates. While not focusing exclusively on violent girls, their work on girls in trouble with the law provides much insight into the complex issue of girls' aggression and violence. The summary of research in this brief is, for the most part, guided by their work. Overall, the brief reviews the extent of girls' delinquency and violence, the ways they differ from boys', the contributing factors, and effective program strategies to prevent female delinquency.
The Scope of Girls' Delinquency, Crime, and Violence
The Extent of Girls' Involvement
An understanding of the extent of girls' delinquency can be gleaned from statistics, as compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and other official agencies, and from self-report surveys conducted with young people. These data demonstrate that girls are far less likely than boys to be arrested; in 1994, for example, girls accounted for one-fourth of youthful arrests (Chesney-Lind & Brown...
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...s in the Maryland juvenile justice system. Findings of the Female
Population Taskforce. Presentation to the Gender Specific Services Training, Minneapolis, MN.
Moore, J.W., & Hagedorn, J.M. (1996). What happens to girls in the gang? In C.R. Huff (Ed.), Gangs in America (pp. 205-20). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Rankin, J.H. (1980). School factors and delinquency: Interaction by age and sex. Sociology and Social Research, 64(3), 420-434.
Tolan, P., & Guerra, N. (1994). What works in reducing adolescent violence: An empirical
review of the field. Boulder: University of Colorado, Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence.
Webster, D.W., Gainer, P.S., & Champion, H.R. (1993). Weapon carrying among inner-city
junior high school students: Defensive behavior versus aggressive delinquency. American Journal of Public Health, 83, 1604-1608.
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