Girls in Trouble with the Law

Girls in Trouble with the Law

Girls in Trouble with the Law

Girls in Trouble with the Law

Excerpt

Popular moral panics often focus on girls’ and women’s behavior. In the corporate news media and Hollywood films, images of girls and women in crises, such as the unwed pregnant teenager, the welfare cheat, the uncaring, crack-addicted mother, the teen girl in need of an abortion, and the abducted innocent girl child, stimulate civic discourse and outrage. The irony is that most academic studies (as well as policy development and program funding) focus on the situations and experiences of boys and men. In general, sociology is the study of men’s troubles. Most books about juvenile law and delinquency (textbooks, ethnographies, theoretical overviews, and federal statistics) contain one chapter, section, or paragraph that addresses issues related to females. Although canonical narratives reveal much about processes of gender, these texts, like others in their fields, rarely made their debut as research on masculinity. Men’s and boys’ experiences are the unspoken standard to which girls’ and women’s lives are compared. The results of the research reported in Girls in Trouble with the Law, however, point to the importance of understanding the conditions, situations, and experiences of the female half of the population in order to generate not only socially relevant theory but effective public policy.

The concerns of female juvenile offenders have hovered below the radar of media headlines and of the sociological research agenda. The lack of research on girls’ experience has exacerbated ill-conceived notions of gender as well as misinterpretations of both the statistical data and the accounts of girls’ decisions. A spate of work now, however, features the history of girls’ delinquency and troubles. Feminist researchers working in criminology, psychology, and law have quickly amassed reliable social science documenting the experiences of girls’ troubles with . . .

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