Academic journal article Journal of Juvenile Justice

Gender-Specific Mental Health Outcomes of a Community-Based Delinquency Intervention

Academic journal article Journal of Juvenile Justice

Gender-Specific Mental Health Outcomes of a Community-Based Delinquency Intervention

Article excerpt

Introduction

Effective rehabilitation services are critical for preventing negative and promoting positive outcomes for youth involved in delinquency. Girls and boys who engage in delinquent behavior and have subsequent involvement with the juvenile justice system are not only at risk for further criminal offending (Colman, Mitchell-Herzfeld, Kim, & Shady, 2010), but also for serious mental health problems, academic failure (Chesney-Lind & Shelden, 2004), partner violence, risky sexual behavior (Miller, Malone, & Dodge, 2010), and child maltreatment (Colman et al., 2010). Because of the stability of untreated behavior concerns over a lifetime (Dinh, Roosa, Tein, & Lopez, 2002), it is critical for juvenile offenders to receive interventions that effectively promote healthy development and reduce their likelihood of reoffending.

Historically, research on and programming for juvenile offenders have focused almost exclusively on males (Chesney-Lind & Shelden, 2004). In a review of the history of research on female crime, Tracy, Kempf-Leonard, and AbramoskeJames (2009) found that female crime was largely ignored in the research literature for much of the 20th century, perhaps because the prevalence and incidence of female criminality was deemed insufficient for examination. Whereas males have traditionally committed (and continue to commit) more crimes than females, the rates of arrest for males and females in the past few decades show changing trends. Uniform Crime Report data for the year 2007 show that although males continue to comprise the vast majority of juvenile arrests in the United States (71% of all arrests), rates of arrest for males have steadily decreased from 1997 to 2007, while rates for females decreased much more gradually and remained relatively stable from 2002 to 2006 (Tracy et al., 2009).

Various researchers and theorists have debated the reason for the increased proportion of females in the juvenile justice system. Although the data seem to indicate a shift in the behavior of girls, many researchers argue that this increase actually reflects a change in the way police and juvenile justice systems are responding to the behavior of girls (Chesney-Lind & Shelden, 2004; Javdani, Sadeh, & Verona, 2011). Girls are more likely to be arrested for less serious crimes, such as status offenses (e.g., running away and curfew/ loitering), than boys (Chesney-Lind & Shelden, 2004), but they are also more likely to receive the harshest sanctions in court (e.g., juvenile prison) for status offenses or technical probation violations (Tracy et al., 2009). Girls are placed in correctional facilities at younger ages than boys and are disproportionately placed in residential settings for status offenses; the great majority of boys are placed in residential settings for more serious misdemeanor or felony offenses (Tracy et al., 2009). These findings suggest that juvenile justice systems treat boys and girls differently, even when they commit similar crimes. Although differential treatment may be needed to effectively intervene with juveniles of different genders, there is insufficient evidence to adequately inform practice. Researchers have recently dedicated more attention to gender issues in juvenile delinquency, but further evaluation of delinquency interventions for both males and females is needed. The current study addressed this need by exploring gender-specific outcomes after involvement in a comprehensive, communitybased delinquency intervention.

Delinquency Risk and Protective Factors and Trajectories

Involvement in antisocial and criminal behaviors can be predicted by a complex interplay of factors in multiple areas of youths'lives, including in the individual, family, school, peer, and social/ community contexts (Hawkins et al., 2000). The transactional-ecological model of development recognizes the importance of understanding individuals and their behavior as embedded within multiple systems and relationships (Sameroff, 2000). …

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