Sexual Risk Behavior and Alcohol
and Other Drug Use among Female
Implications for Intervention
RHONDA C. CONERLY
ALYSSA G. ROBILLARD
RONALD L. BRAITHWAITE
Although male detention rates are significantly higher than female detention rates, the number of females involved in the juvenile court system has increased. Of the 2.5 million juvenile arrests made in 1999, 27 percent were of female offenders (Snyder 2001). According to data from 1997, less than 1 percent of the female adolescents were involved in the adult criminal system (Scahill 2000). During the period from 1989 to 1998, there was a 56 percent increase in the number of cases involving female delinquents entering detention compared to a 20 percent increase in male detention (Harms 2002). This increase was directly related to the number of females who committed person offenses.
This marked increase in the number of female detainees creates a population of young women in need of specific and appropriate intervention. Adolescent females placed in detention facilities typically engage in a number of risky behaviors including alcohol and other drug use and risky sexual behavior at very early ages. Alcohol and other drug use can impair judgment and lead to decisions that place one's health at risk, such as engaging in unprotected sexual behavior. Thus it is imperative to address these behaviors among adolescent female detainees. Female detainees exhibit many of the same risk factors of their male counterparts, including physical or emotional abuse, low economic status, and poor parenting (Bergsmann 1988, 1989; Crawford 1988; Sarri 1988), but they tend to receive fewer educational and vocational services, including fewer preventive services (U.S. General Accounting Office 1995). Early identification and treatment, long-term program commitment, individualized attention, skill enhancement, life options, vocational orientation, and greater community involvement are some possible