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01-02-2015 | Original Paper | Uitgave 2/2015

Journal of Child and Family Studies 2/2015

Females in the Juvenile Justice System: Influences on Delinquency and Recidivism

Journal of Child and Family Studies > Uitgave 2/2015
David E. Barrett, Song Ju, Antonis Katsiyannis, Dalun Zhang


The role of mental health history and family dysfunction or disruption on female juvenile delinquency was examined. Using large sample archival data from a state juvenile justice agency, we examined the behavioral and demographic predictors of repeat offending for a sample of approximately 34,000 females who had been referred for criminal offenses. Then, after merging these data with those from multiple state agencies, we compared the family and mental health histories of the delinquent females with those of females from a matched control group of the same number, constructed from the records of the state department of education. Drug use, family delinquency, severity of first offenses, and age of first offending were predictors of repeat offending for the females in the delinquent sample. Compared with non-delinquent females, delinquent females were more likely to be eligible for free or reduced lunch, and were more likely to have been in foster care or child protective services. The strongest predictor of membership in the delinquent sample was a DSM-IV diagnosis of a mental health disorder related to aggression or impulse control. All variables associated with delinquency remained significant when other predictors were statistically controlled. Implications for prevention of female juvenile delinquency were addressed.

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