Females and Delinquency
Delinquency and youth violence have been growing by epidemic proportions. Juvenile delinquency has focused primarily on conduct disorder and aggression in males, while relatively little attention has been paid to females who commit delinquent acts. As girls mature through adolescence they face an increased chance of experiencing risk factors for gang involvement and delinquency. This stems from several factors which include a lack of family supervision, ineffective parenting techniques, family conflict, and antisocial behavior.
Lack of Supervision
It has been found that low supervision and delinquency go hand in hand. Due to mothers being away at work, their children tend to be less supervised. Demo (1992) stated that mothers who were not employed had twice as much time to spend with their children as opposed to working mothers. Hoffman (1989) stated that mothers who worked more than twenty four hours a week had less time to spend with their infants and pre-school children (Vander 2003). The less time that is spent supervised by a parent, the more time that youth have to spend with delinquent friends (Mann 2018).
Ineffective parenting strategies also play a role in female delinquency. In a study done by Michael J. Vitacco (2003), he linked poor parenting styles to disruptive and antisocial behaviors in both children and adolescents. In his study, Vitacco evaluated 136 Hispanic females in South Texas between the ages of ten to fifteen and found that poor parenting predicted psychopathology and poor behavioral controls. Within this study behaviors related to sensation seeking, depression, and anxiety were measured. The third measurement used a five point Likert scale to assess parenting strategies. The results of this study indicate that failure to properly monitor and supervise children’s behavior leads to impulsivity and behavioral dysregulation in a nonadjudicated sample of Hispanic females (Vitacco 2003). Additionally, impulsivity and narcissism were associated with symptoms of depression and anxiety, suggesting that poor quality of parental supervision has far‐reaching consequences for the mental health of Hispanic females.
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Another aspect to ineffective parenting is the relationship of the parent and the child. As stated by Hirschi (1969) “a poor relationship between the parent and child is highly influential in the child’s subsequent delinquency.” As for the girls who were in the California Youth Authority, they had suffered from seeing their parents go through many issues such as broken marriages, multiple relationships, alcoholism, and mental illnesses. The most crucial thing they lacked was the nurturing aspect from their parents. Many of these girls had received very little positive feedback and were often rejected by their fathers. One of the girls reported that she had come home one day to her angry father, who had been maddened by the fact that he had a daughter instead of a son. Another girl remembered being locked in a room because her father wanted nothing to do with her. She was locked in there until she conformed to her father’s rules. Several of the girls also reported abuse from their mothers who were cruel to them and did not show them any sign of love or nurture. Rausenbaum stated that she was not surprised that these girls turned to delinquency after growing up in lifestyles such as these.
Female Delinquency in Relation to Social Control Theory
In relation to self-control theory, females are thought to have a higher level of self-control. In a study done by Lisa R. Muftic, 35,511 adolescents from 31 different countries were sampled to test if the relationship between parenting strategies and delinquency is mediated by self-control (Muftic 2018). They also hypothesized that females will have higher levels of self-control relative to males. They thought that females will have lower levels of delinquency relative to males, and that males’ higher levels of delinquency and lower levels of self-control will be explained by parents engaging in a lower quality of parenting toward male offspring relative to female offspring. The results of this study indicate that parenting exhibits a direct effect on adolescents’ violence perpetration and property offending, and that while self-control weakens the strength of this relationship, it fails to fully mediate it (Muftic 2018). In females whose parents lacked effective parenting techniques, females showed to have lower levels of self-control, exposure to poorer parenting techniques, and higher rates of violence perpetration and property offending (Muftic 2018).
There is little connection between broken homes and delinquent behavior. However, Markle thinks that other factors play a role in the causation of delinquency. Hoffman (1984) deduced that large family households may be conductive with delinquent behavior. As stated by Hirschi (1969), “The higher rate of delinquent behavior in large families may result from parents having less time and energy per child and thus less attachment to their children than parents with fewer children.” Hirsch also stated that “youth who are more attached to their parents have greater direct and indirect controls placed on their behavior.” One reason as to why females turn to delinquency is that they may come from troubled homes where family conflict is present on a constant basis. Rausenbaum (1988) states that there may be a lack of parental attachment between the female youth and her parents. It has been shown that female delinquency is more likely than male delinquency to reflect problems at home. This in turn can result in women ending up in state facilities, as a result of coming from the most troubled families. However, it may be that their homes are more troubled than those of their male counterparts.
Single parent ran homes also tend to be an environment where delinquency can arise. In a study by Jill Leslie Rausenbaum (1988), she studied relationship between status offenses and broken homes and status offenses and single-parent families. Within the data, Rausenbaum found that very few girls came from intact families. In 1980, Rausenbaum had taken a sample of 240 women who had been committed to the California Youth Authority, which was a state agency for juvenile offenders. These records that Rausenbaum had requested were from women who had lived in the San Francisco and Sacramento Valley areas. Out of her findings, Rausenbaum discovered that most of these women were arrested as juveniles. When Rausenbaum examined these girls at the age of sixteen, she noticed that most of their mothers had married an average of four times. Without a stable set of parents, these females were more likely to resort to delinquent behavior.
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Another aspect to family conflict is family violence. In a study done by Farber and Knast (1984) they found that a large amount of violence had be directed towards youth who had run away. In one case, Farber and Knast recalled how one mother was beaten by her husband. She had been arguing with her husband about who the father of her daughter was, even though she knew it was another man. Another case had noted that one of the young girls vividly remembered watching and hearing her mother being choked by her father as she listened from a dark closet. As the years pasted, these girls were later admitted to the California Youth Authority for committing crimes of their own (Farber and Knast).
The Integrated Cognitive Antisocial Potential (ICAP) theory was designed to help better explain offending by lower-class females. This theory assumes that the translation from antisocial potential to antisocial behavior is dependent on cognitive processes which take in opportunities and victims (Cullen and Wilcox 226). This theory also assumes that there is a single developmental pathway from childhood to adulthood and how this antisocial potential can turn into criminal behavior.
In long term antisocial potential, criminality tends to be high if individuals are exposed to and influenced by antisocial models such as criminal parents, delinquent siblings, and delinquent peers in areas that are high in crime such as schools and neighborhoods (Cullen and Wilcox 236). In short term antisocial potential stems from factors such as being bored, angry, drunk, frustrated, or encouraged by male peers (Cullen and Wilcox 236).
In a study done by Stacy Tzoumakis, Patrick Lussier, and Raymond Corrado, they noticed that intergenerational transmission of aggression and antisocial behavior was passed down from mothers who reported delinquency in adolescence to their children who have aggressive behavior. The ﬁndings showed that “children of mothers who had a history of juvenile delinquency had an earlier age of onset of physical aggression and were more likely to manifest different types of physically aggressive behaviors, including more serious behaviors, than children of mothers without a history of juvenile delinquency” (Tzoumakis, Lussier, and Corrado). Findings also showed that there was a statistical association between mothers’ history of juvenile delinquency and their children’s physical aggression.
Overall, the reasons linking females to delinquency are prevalent. The key factors as to why delinquency occurs amongst females resonates with the parents of young females. When there is a lack of parental supervision, girls may see this as an opportunity to act out or do things they would not usually do such as commit crimes. Other reasons for delinquency stem from a lack of parental nurture. Instead of getting the loving attention that young girls need, delinquent females tend to come from families where family conflict is constantly present. They tend to lack praise from their parents and have strained relationships between themselves and their parents.
- Cernkovich, S., Giordano, P., and M. Pugh (1985) “Chronic Offenders: The Missing Cases in Self-Report Delinquency Research.” Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 76:705-32.
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- Demo, D. H. (1992) “Parent-Child Relations: Assessing Recent Changes.” Journal of Marriage and the Family 54:104-17
- Farber, E. and C. Knast. 1984, “Violence in Families of Adolescant Runaways,” Child Abuse and Neglect 8:295-299
- Hirschi, T. (1969) Causes of Delinquency. Berkeley: University of California Press.
- Hoffman, L. W. (1984) “Work, Family, and the Socialization of the Child.” In R. Parke (ed.) Review of Child Development Research, pp. 223-82. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
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- Morris, R. (1964). FEMALE DELINQUENCY AND RELATIONAL PROBLEMS. Social Forces, 43(1), 82-89.
- Muftić, L., & Updegrove, A. (2018). The Mediating Effect of Self-Control on Parenting and Delinquency: A Gendered Approach with a Multinational Sample. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 62(10), 3058-3076.
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- Vander, V. T. (2003). Working mothers and juvenile delinquency.
- Vitacco, M., Neumann, C., Ramos, V., & Roberts, M. (2003). Ineffective Parenting: A Precursor to Psychopathic Traits and Delinquency in Hispanic Females. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1008(1), 300-303.
- Williams, S. (1998) “Bad Girls: Violent Women -Through a Looking Glass.” Ottawa Citizen, January 4:E6.
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