Academic journal article Journal of Juvenile Justice

Gender Comparisons in the Processes and Outcomes of Functional Family Therapy

Academic journal article Journal of Juvenile Justice

Gender Comparisons in the Processes and Outcomes of Functional Family Therapy

Article excerpt

Introduction

The statistical data indicate that the number of female delinquents arrested and detained is on the rise. In 2013, law enforcement made over 700,000 arrests of juveniles under age of 18. Although the juvenile arrests decreased by 15.5 percent in 2013 compared with 2012, arrests of female juveniles have been rising. For example, the percentage of female arrests increased from 17 percent in 1980 to 29 percent in 2010 (www.fbi.gov). The data show that female delinquents tend to be arrested for larceny-theft, prostitution, and breaking liquor laws. The largest increase in female arrests occurred in property crimes (Sickmund & Puzzanchera, 2014). In addition, although the court cases of female adolescents account for a relatively small share of all cases, the number of female defendants either increased, or decreased less than the number of male defendants (Sickmund & Puzzanchera, 2014).

The data indicate that male delinquents are more likely to be detained than females. However, between 1985 and 2010 the number of detained females increased by 43 percent, while the number of detained males increased by 11 percent. In 2010, females were charged in 28 percent of all delinquency cases and in 43 percent of all status offenses. The majority of female status offenders were brought to the court on charges of running away from home (58 percent; Sickmund & Puzzanchera, 2014).

The above-summarized statistical data clearly show that female involvement in the juvenile justice system has been increasing. These recent trends are concerning; subsequently, many scholars have been calling for gender-appropriate interventions that would prevent and reduce female involvement in the system (Bloom, Owen, & Covington, 2005; Hubbard & Matthews, 2008; Widom, 2000; Worthen, 2011).

The current study is exploratory and reports results of the process and outcome evaluation for females and males who participated in Functional Family Therapy (FFT). Specifically, the purpose of this research is to describe how females and males enter the juvenile justice system and the FFT intervention, and to compare the therapeutic and the juvenile justice outcomes by gender. The data used in this research were collected between 2006 and 2011 as part of a larger evaluation study conducted with youth enrolled in the Children at Risk Resources and Interventions-Youth Intensive Intervention Program (CARRI-YIIP) in Middlesex County, New Jersey. The sample includes 116 adolescents who completed FFT: 72 males and 44 females.

Although FFT has been recognized as an effective intervention for many types of juvenile delinquents (status offenders, serious delinquents, drug- and alcohol-abusing juveniles), only a small number of studies address the issues of differential impact by gender. This study is an attempt to fill the current gap that exists in the literature. The findings of this project will contribute to the literature on interventions for female and male delinquents, and particularly on their participation in FFT. The results are relevant to current juvenile justice policies.

Interventions for Juvenile Delinquents

In recent years, many scholars have focused their attention on evaluating effectiveness of programs and interventions for juvenile delinquents. Myers (2013) argues that this trend is a part of the "accountability movement" pursued by the agencies and organizations in the juvenile justice system.

There are various ways of identifying and subsequently implementing effective interventions for young offenders. For example, Lipsey, Howell, Kelly, Chapman, and Carver (2010) differentiated among three approaches: a direct evaluation of the implemented program, selecting a model program that has been deemed effective by a reliable source (e.g., the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention's "Model Programs Guide"), or selecting a program through meta-analysis. Based on these approaches, Greenwood (2008) distinguished among proven, preferred, promising, provisional, and ineffective programs and strategies. …

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