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Female Delinquency Essay, Research Paper

One of the most important issues in crime today is Juvenile Delinquency. It is

too often the cause that people see it as something ?new? and a problem that needs

to be dealt with by today?s society. Female delinquency is and has been rapidly

increasing in the past few years. In Girls, Delinquency, and Juvenile Justice, Lind and

Shelden give an overview of juvenile delinquency among females. To fully

understand the question of who, where, when, how, and why females are

delinquent, it is necessary to first understand the nature of female delinquency.

To comprehend the entire study of female delinquency, it is also imperative to

become acquainted with the theories why females commit such delinquencies and

crimes. Also, to understand the way of life and the delinquent acts of females.

Females are also involved in the subculture of gangs. And what happens when these

females become part of the juvenile justice system? When females are arrested for

their involvement of delinquent acts they enter the justice system, but what are the

courts doing to endure that these young women receive the appropriate sentencing?

If sent to a detention center exactly where are they going and what goes on there?

Lind and Shelden interviewed a sample of incarcerated females about their

experience as female delinquents. An overview of the study of female delinquency

will be discussed using the works of Lind and Shelden as a secondary source data and

it will conclude whether females that have been part of the justice system are now

integrated into our society as law-abiding citizens.

Society often overlooks at the reasons why young females commit crimes and

delinquent acts. It is necessary that we take a look at the nature of female

delinquency to better understand what has driven these young women to commit

delinquent acts. The majority of girls that become delinquent are shaped by

problems that they face in today?s society. Such problems include, little power given

to women, few jobs options, and fewer civil rights in comparison to men, and not to

mention the root of the problem which in most cases is their home. The majority of

these females come from low-income and broken homes where they are often raised

by a single parent.

The most common type of crimes committed by female delinquents is

larceny-theft, better known as ?shoplifting.? According to Morris, females are more

often detected by store personnel because it is excepted that women tend to shoplift

more than men, and therefore are watched more closely. An explanation for

shoplifting (Morris) is a ?subconscious motives (kleptomania), depression or poverty.

Temptation is another reason why girls shoplift, they believe that popularity is tied

with physical appearance and the participation in fashion and fads. This is especially

true in teenage girls from poor families because these teens feel that they need to be

part of the teenage subculture in order to fit in at school and among their peers.

The status offenses that are most committed by young females are running

away and curfew violations, but with these minor acts come major consequences

which sometimes it includes prostitution. Statistics estimate that over one million

youths under the age of eighteen run away from homes each year and an estimated

million leave ?by mutual consent? or are ?throwaways? (Roberts, 1987:xi). Most of

the youths that run away remain within ten miles from home and at least

sixty-percent return home within three days. Some of the reasons why these females

leave their home is in flight from sexual victimization that occurs in the home. Other

run away girls leave their home because they are rebellious and are often drop-outs

that tend to be angry and they are alienated from their parents. An estimated

600,000 prostitute girls are under the age of sixteen and they majority of these girls

have been run aways. The abuse of these girls often continues from abusive pimps

and customers .

Theories of female delinquency date back to the first scholarly ?father? of

criminology Caesar Lombroso. According to Lombroso, all criminal behavior could

be explained as the behavior of ?biological throwbacks? and criminals were often

seen as a less highly evolved normal, law-abiding citizen. In the works of Lombroso,

one could find a book filled with figures of women?s weights, measurement of their

lower jaws, brains, eyes, noses, craniums, and hands. Lombroso concluded that

?females were congenitally less inclined toward crime than males because of their

sedentary nature and their biological roles as caretakers of children.? But when the

female committed a crime, as seen by Lombroso and Ferrero, she was believed to be

the most vile criminal of all.

Other theories that sought to explain the causes of delinquency among

women were handicapped by stereotyping the female gender. A causal effect of their

delinquency was played by sexuality. This theme was supported in the works of

Thomas, Pollak, the Gluecks, and many others. Other key sociological theories that

were reviewed were labeling, differential association, control, and Marxist/critical.

These theories suggested that delinquency was an extention of the male masculinity.

The most popular theory suggested that there was an increase in female delinquency

during the women?s movements in the late 1960?s and early 1970?s.

The lifes and delinquency of girls was another attribute in the study of female

delinquency. To better understand this we must approach this from the view of

society and how it views women. In the patriarchal society in which we live in the

lifes of both boys and girls are gender stratified. During the socialization process most

boys and girls learn what is and what is not appropriate for each gender to do or act

upon in their surroundings. A women?s place is further enforced as the female

becomes an adolescent and she learns the do?s and don?t by parents, school

personnel, and others in life. It was believed that the women?s movements was a

causal factor in the increase of female delinquency, but research suggests that norms

and expectations for girls remains unaltered. In some girls low self-esteem was tied

with juvenile delinquency, often this occurs while girls are in the adolescent years in


Female involvement in gangs is on the rise, once seen that females only joined

gangs to be seen as sex objects, sources of prestige, and hustles to be exploited by

boys. On the contrary females join gangs for protection, to get a sense recognition

and identity, and to develop and maintain a peer group or friendship network. As

portrayed by the media, that the liberation movement is a key factor in female crime,

it is too often that this proves to be false. Especially when it comes to the question

why females join gangs. The broken home is often the root of the problem why

females end up on the wrong branch of society and they have no choice but to

become a member of a gang and have a ?family? (the gang) to accept to her.

Once the crime has been committed and the delinquent female has been

apprehended by law enforcement she is turned into the hands of the courts and she

becomes part of the juvenile justice system. When a female is taken into custody she

is more likely to be released than a boy suspected of commiting the same type of

crime, with the exception that the police is more likely to arrest girls on suspicion of

sexual offenses. Therefore, girls are more likely than boys to be referred to the courts

for status offenses.

The roots of the juvenile justice system dates back to the colonial doctrine of

parens patriae ?the ultimate parent? referring to the state. When parents have no

control over the actions of their children, the court takes their place. The first juvenile

courts were established in the United States in 1899 and were described as ?child

savers.? Some not so ?child savers? laws were also enacted during the colonial era,

the stubborn child law gave parents the right to kill their children if he or she

misbehaved. In the juvenile justice system, females still suffer from discrimination,

often the are sentenced to harsher punishments (than boys) when they commit the

same status offense.

The sample of girls that were taken for the study by Lind and Shelden was a

sample of ten girls that were in a short-term residential treatment program for female

juvenile offenders. The age ranged from twelve to seventeen years of age with a

highly diverse ethnic group. The girls came from upper-middle class to lower class

families. Their offenses ranged from truancy to using and selling drugs. School was

no so important to these girls and they had very low ambition to further their

education. Overall, these girls came from broken homes with abusive parents and

they felt that in order for them to fit in with their clique, they had to commit

delinquent acts.

Programs for girls are widely available so that females that fall in the wrong

places in society have the opportunity to get a normal lifestyle. These programs

provide the support that the delinquent females need. For example, basic skills are

often tough to them so that they could survive and perhaps get a college education.

Rehabilitation programs are also available for those that are involved in drug use and


Having read Girls, Delinquency, and Juvenile Justice I found it very informative

in the study of female delinquency and I was able to link it to the previous studies of

juvenile delinquency. Many strengths were found throughout the book, among them

include the clear comparison of male to female delinquency and the overview of how

females are treated when they become part of the justice system (very unfairly). One

weakness I would like to critique is how males were also the ?scapegoats? of the

studies, yes it is a fact that males do commit more crimes that females, but I think

there needs to be more research on the theories on female delinquency. This book

gives a great contribution on the study of juvenile delinquency it clearly surveys all the

necessary concepts needed to fully understand female juvenile delinquency. One

item I would like to suggest to possible later editions is that the authors have a

bibiograhphy at the end of the book instead of having the constant interruptions of

citing in between the sentences and paragraphs.

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