This review addresses major questions around female juvenile delinquency, around which much contemporary research is oriented. These involve which factors are contributing to female juvenile delinquency and what causes female juveniles to display criminal behaviour in the first place. Theories and risk factors will be identified. Although research in the past decade has yielded considerable information about these questions, issues that need further investigation are also presented.
Female juvenile delinquency: What went wrong with “Sugar and Spice and all things nice”?
Until recently, girls have been virtually invisible in criminology studies and theories of delinquency (Belknap, 2001; Chesney-Lind & Belknap, 2004) however girls continue to be incarcerated for their criminal behaviours. The FBI reported that girls accounted for one in four arrests of young people in America in 1999 (FBI, 2002). According to Snyder & Sickmund (2006) females accounted for 29% of arrests and 15% of juveniles in custodial care in 2003. In 2007, females accounted for 17% of juvenile crime index arrests, 35% of juvenile property crime index arrests and 33% of juvenile disorderly conduct arrests (Puzzanchera, 2009). Furthermore, between 1985 and 2007, the increase in females with person offenses was 233% (Hockenberry, 2010) and in 2008 juvenile female arrests for simple assault increased 12%. The overall number of delinquent girls rose 96% between 1991 and 2003 (Snyder & Sickmund, 2006). All of this data indicates that girls’ involvement in the juvenile justice system has increased significantly over the past few decades. This highlighted increase in the arrest and detention of girls has brought new attention to the issue of female juvenile delinquency (Belknap, 2001) and research efforts have increased. In the past, research focused on males juveniles and the causes and effects of their behaviou (Shelden & Chesney-Lind, 1993). Violence and delinquency have been seen exclusively as male problems and females have been excluded from most studies (Artz, 1998) however in 2002 the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act was authorised to provide funds for research and gender specific programming for girls (Schaffner, 2004).
The recent rise in female juvenile delinquency rates is evidently a concern; however the reasons as to why the delinquency rates have risen are not certain. What factors are contributing to female juvenile delinquency? What causes female juveniles to display criminal behaviour in the first place? Countless researchers have attempted to answer these questions and the answers vary greatly amongst them. This report will focus on juvenile delinquency among females by reviewing the current state of the literature that examines the roles of girls involved in illegal behaviour, and reasons for their participation in crime. This issue is significant because it is important to understand what influences females to engage in delinquent behaviour so that appropriate prevention, treatment and rehabilitation strategies can be identified (Widom, 2000). Theoretical Explanations for Female Delinquency
Biological Determinism. Lombroso was the first to study female delinquency in 1895. He attributed the involvement of women in crime to biological abnormalities and traits present at birth which predetermined them to become criminals. Lombroso felt that women developed differently within sexual and racial limitations (Gora, 1982). Biological abnormalities and primitive traits characterised and helped define criminally prone females and this was referred to as Trait Theory (Siegel & Senna, 1997). Women were expected to be feminine, therefore masculine women were linked to criminal disposition and characteristics such as obesity, moles, dark hair and body hair were...