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Shared Reading: The Extent of Female Delinquency

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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: August 7, 2004
Latest Update: August 7, 2004

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Index of Topics on Site The Extent of Female Delinquency
Chapter 2 of Girls, Delinquency, and Juvenile Justice
by meda Chesney-Lind and Randal G. Shelden

  1. Introduction Why I chose to share this reading.
  2. Focus: Main point of this reading.
  3. Reading Full identification of source for reading AND excerpt.
  4. Concepts: Concepts and Key Words.
  5. Discussion Discussion questions.
  6. Conceptual Linking to Substantive Courses What this has to do with our class.

* * *


  • This is the third edition of a text on grils and juvenile delinquency. Although delinquency is by no means limited to poverty areas, the lack of police and institutional support and of supervised recreational activity results in delinquency laying a heavier burden on poverty neighborhoods. This chapter gives a picture of the overall pattern of femal delinquency and will give you information that we need in our discussions of women and poverty.


  • I'd like you to come away from this reading with a general sense of what the literature says about girls and delinquency.

Concepts and Key Words:

  • index crimes: Index Crimes Chicago Police Department. Backup:
    "Index Crime. One of eight crime categories collected as part of the Uniform Crime Reporting Program and considered representative of the most serious crimes. The eight index crime categories are split into two major subcategories, violent and property. Violent index crimes are those committed directly against a person -- Homicide, Criminal Sexual Assault, Robbery, and Aggravated Assault/Battery. Property index crimes are those in which there is no direct threat or harm to a person -- Burglary, Theft, Motor Vehicle Theft, and Arson."

  • status offenses: Juvenile Justice Bulletin:
    "What are status offenses? Traditionally, status offenses were those behaviors that were law violations only if committed by a person of juvenile status. Such behaviors included running away from home, ungovernability (being beyond the control of parents or guardians), truancy, status liquor law violations (e.g., underage drinking, which also applies to young adults up to age 20), and other miscellaneous offenses that apply only to minors (e.g., curfew violations and tobacco offenses).

    "In some States, these behaviors are no longer law violations. Instead, juveniles who engage in the behaviors may be classified as dependent children, which gives child protective service agencies, rather than juvenile courts, the primary responsibility for responding to this population."

  • other assaults: (Chesney-Lind, at p.17-18)
    "With respect to the arrests of young women for specific violent 'masculine' crimes (murder, aggravated assault, robbery, other assaults, and weapons offenses), there was a slight contraction of the gap beetween males and females, however, much of the apparent female gain was due to an increases in the arrests of girls for 'other assaults' that are 'relatively nonserious in nature and tend to consist of being bystanders or companions to males involved in skirmishes' (Steffensmeier & Steffensmeier, 1980: 70). Juvenile crime, like its adult counterpart, is till mainly a male issue."

  • Uniform Crime Reports: Uniform Crime Reports Federal Bureau of Investigation:
    "The Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program was conceived in 1929 by the International Association of Chiefs of Police to meet a need for reliable, uniform crime statistics for the nation. In 1930, the FBI was tasked with collecting, publishing, and archiving those statistics. Today, several annual statistical publications, such as the comprehensive Crime in the United States, are produced from data provided by nearly 17,000 law enforcement agencies across the United States."


  • The Extent of Female Delinquency. Chapter 2. Girls, Delinquency, and Juvenile Justice. By Meda Chesney-Lind and G. Shelden. Wadsworth. Third Edition. 2004.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What do the records show on boys' and girls' arrests for crime?

    Chesney-Lind, at p. 9: Boys are arreted for more crimes, and for more serious crimes than are girls. The rate of these arrests has been rising over the last decades, with many more girls being arrested than boys, but the offenses of girls remain generally less serious and less violent than those of boys. Girls are more usually arrested for status offenses: running away, being unmanageable, violating curfews. The society still maintains a more "protective" (translate "controllling") attitude towards girls. "Generally, official delinquency is dominated by less serious offenses, and this is particularly true of female delinquency"

  2. What about rising rates in violent offenses?

    Chesney-Lind, at p. 13: ". . . trends concerning girls' arrests for violent offenses. . . . both in terms of rates per 100,000 and the proportion of arrests accocunted for by firls, arrest for these kinds of offenses increased in the 1980s, but hae shown a noteworthy decline since then, especially since the mid-1990s. The increases during the 1980s and early 1990s were greatest for two specific offenses in particular: aggravated assaults and 'other assaults.' However, almost equally high increases occurred for boys."

    Chesney-Lind, at p. 15: "But these conclusions should be tempered by noting that he largest increases for "violent" crime have been for relatiely minor assaults and boys have clearly been in the lead. The male of the species still has a considerable lead in committing violent acts."

  3. How do rates compare for whites and ethnic minorities in girls' involvement in the juvenile justice system?

    From Girls and Juvenile Justice Girls Incorporated:

    "Nationwide, for every 100,000 young women, 102 were committed to public or private facilities for juvenile offenses. The custody rate for Black young women was more than three times (234) that for White young women (75). The custody rate for American Indian/Alaskan Native young women was 224 per 100,000; for Hispanic young women 100 per 100,000; and for Asian/Pacific Islander young women 39 per 100,000."

  4. Do self report surveys confirm the researchers' statistics?

    Chesney-Lind, at p. 19:

    "Researchers have long used self-report surveys to gain informatin about the extent of juvenile delinquency. Typically, the surveys reveal that female delinquency is more common than arrest statistics indicate and that there are more similarities than official statistics suggest between male and female juvenile delinquency. They also show that males are more involved in delinquency, especially the most serious types of offenses. These findings point to some possible gender biases operating within the juvenile justice system be cause the picture of female delinquency that emerges from the self-report data shows about as many boys as girls committing status offenses."

  5. Do girls have delinquency careers?

    Chesney-Lind, at p. 23 ff:

    "The past several decades have witnessed considerable interest in delinquent 'careers.' Most of the research has been longitudinal, which means that a sample of youths is examined over a given period to explore the extent of their involvement in delinquent behvior. Most studies have measured delinquency by using contact with police or courts (Visher & Roth, 1986), which, as we have seen, may exaggerate the gender difference in delinuency; nonetheless, they provide an important perspective on girls' official delinguqent careers.

    Longitudinal research has revealed not only that adolescent males are more actively involved in delinquent behavior )in terms of number and seriousness of offenses that brin them to official attention) but also that their 'careers' go on longer. than those of females."

  6. What about racial differences?

    Chesney-Lind, at p. 25 ff: This text still reflects the tendency to compare black and white statistics, rather than a multiple perspective. (See Girls and Juvenile Justice Girls Incorporated for other data.)

    "There are many important racial differences in female delinquency. Rates of involvement in delinquent activity (as measured by both official and self-report data) show black males with the highest level, followed by white males, black females, and white famales. Some studies indicate a rate of involvement for black females very close to that for white males."

Conceptual Linking to Substantive Courses:

  • Agencies:
    Sample linking: Ways in which underlying assumptions of assimilation affect services offered and clients' ability to access and use those services. How does this reading illustrate the need for social agencies, for more generalized agencies, for what Bolman and Deal would call "leadership" AND "management"? How does this reading suggest ways in which we could be more effective in rendering help, and what is the reading's relationship to a "safety net" for those who need help?

  • Criminal Justice:
    Sample linking: Ways in which some groups are underrepresented in the unstated assumptions of our theories. How does this reading serve to illustrate adversarialism, mutuality, retribution, revenge, illocutionary understanding, the definition and operation of the criminal justice system?

  • Law:
    Sample linking: Extent to which laws are made on the assumption that we are all essentially assimilated to the dominant culture. How does this reading help us see the need for contextual readings in law? How does it relate to our natural instincts to seek some kind of natural law? What facts and principles does the reading offer for discourse that could clarify for Others validity claims presented by an Obscure Other?

  • Moot Court:
    Sample linking: Ways in which to make validty claims of harm understood by those who have never experienced many of the world's different perspectives. How can this reading enlighten our praxis in terms of different kinds of discourse, like instrumental, illocutionary, governance?

  • Women in Poverty:
    Sample linking: The culture of poverty and assimilation. How does the reading deal with our underlying assumptions about poverty, especially poverty of the exploited, the NOT- male? What does the reading suggest of the interrelationship between our society and its children, generally cared for by women, often poor?

  • Race, Gender, Class:
    Sample linking: The extent to which silence has been imposed by these affiliations so that domination and discrimination have entered our unstated assumptions in interpersonal relations and the structural context arising from them. What does the reading tell us about exploitation and alternative ways to deal with one another? What does it tell us about institutionalized -isms and our denial of complicity? What does it tell us about our common humanity?

  • Religion:
    Sample linking: The spiritual component. Humans are spiritual creatures, creatures that recognize moments that go beyond ourselves to God, Allah, Isis, Gaia, the Universe, or a deep sense of responsibility to create our own meanng. How does the reading fit into our ability, our need to create such meaning in life?

  • Love !A:
    Sample linking: What's the aesthetic link in this reading? How does it bring us closer to one another as humans? What does it tell us about our need for love, unconditional love, not rewards for doing well or being well, but caring and acceptance for being who we are?

Site Copyright: Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata and Individual Authors, August 2004.
"Fair use" encouraged.