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
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.