Girls with Emotional Disturbance and a History of Arrest: Characteristics and School-Based Predictors of Arrest

Article excerpt


Research suggests that girls receiving special education services for Emotional Disturbance (ED) may have unique characteristics and needs. Similarly, juvenile justice research has identified unique characteristics of court-involved girls. This study examined characteristics of girls with ED and a history of arrest. Additionally, classroom-based behavioral performance from elementary school was examined using logistic regression to identify whether or not early predictors of arrest could be identified. Results indicated that girls with ED and a history of arrest were suspended from school less often than boys with ED, but the rate of later arrest was equivalent. Comparisons between girls with ED and girls with ED and a history arrest indicated that low-income, urban, African-American girls with ED were more likely to be arrested. Lastly, girls with ED exhibiting elevated hyperactivity during elementary school were more likely to have a history of arrest by middle and high school.

KEYWORDS: emotional disturbance, gender, delinquency

Children and youth receiving special education services for ... emotional disturbance (ED) experience bleak short and long-term outcomes, including increased rates of arrest, and present many challenges to schools, families, and communities (Bradley, Doolittle, & Bartolotta, 2008; Bradley, Henderson, & Monfore, 2004; Wagner, Kutash, Duchnowski, Epstein, & Sumi, 2005). Although a large body of research has examined characteristics and outcomes for children and youth with ED, a paucity of research has examined characteristic variations by gender (Cullinan, Osborne, & Epstein, 2004). Gender differences for students identified with ED have been highlighted as an area lacking delineation across behavioral and academic performance, as gender differences appear evident (Cullinan et al., 2004; Rice & Yen, 2010; Young, Sabbah, Yonung, Reiser, & Richardson, 2010). Similarly, juvenile justice research has highlighted gender differences indicating divergent behavioral and historical patterns related to recidivism and criminal typology (Funk, 1999; Schwalbe, 2008; Sharkey, Furlong, Jimerson, & O'Brien, 2003), and that girls become court-involved for different reasons than boys (e.g. victims of abuse, family dysfunction, school difficulties; Cauffman, 2008; Chamberlain & Moore, 2002; Leve & Chamberlain, 2004; Schaffner, 2007). To date, little research has examined characteristics and outcomes for girls receiving special education services for ED and a history of arrest.

Girls and Delinquency

Data suggest that girls' rates of delinquency, particularly acts of violence, are increasing (Colman, Kim, Mitchell-Herzfeld, & Shady, 2009; Davis, Fisher, Gershenson, Grudzinkas, & Banks, 2009; Good-kind, Wallace, Shook, Bachman, & O'Malley, 2009; Lederman, Dakof, Larrea, & Li, 2004; Leve & Chamberlain, 2004; Schaffner, 2007). For example, between the years 1980 and 2006, girls' arrests for assault increased by 395% (Goodkind et al., 2009). According to the National Center for Juvenile Justice, arrest rates were on the decline for both genders, but girls' rates of arrest have declined more slowly than boys (Tracy, Kemf-Leonard, & Abramoske-James, 2009). Further, between 2002-2006, the rate of arrests for girls was relatively stable, while the rate for boys was on a steady decline. Girls' rates of engagement in serious crimes compared with boys also appear to be shifting, with girls exhibiting increased rates of robbery and embezzlement. There has also been an increase in the rate of more serious crimes. Girls' rates of larceny-theft increased by 13.9% compared to a 3.5% increase for boys and homicide increased by 51.3% between 2003 and 2007, compared to only 0.3% increase for boys.

Examination of trends in offenses leading to court involvement by age for girls indicates that 31% of violent crimes leading to juvenile arrest occur prior to 15 years of age. …


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