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Delinquent Girls Grown Up: Young Adult Offending Patterns and Their Relation to Early Legal, Individual, and Family Risk

NCJ Number
Journal of Youth and Adolescence Volume: 38 Issue: 3 Dated: March 2009 Pages: 355-366
Date Published
March 2009
12 pages

This study tracked 499 girls (62 percent Black and 16 percent Hispanic) who were discharged from juvenile justice facilities in the early 1990s, in order to determine their arrests, convictions and incarcerations between the ages of 16 and 28, along with the early legal, individual, and family risk factors related to their early adult offending patterns.


The findings show four distinct early-adult offending patterns: rare/nonoffending (RN), low chronic (LC), low-rising (LR), and high chronic (HC). The RN group (32 percent of the sample) never or rarely offended after age 16. The LC group (53.5 percent of the sample) accounted for 52 percent of the 2,409 adult arrests for the sample. Arrest rates for this group were highest in late adolescence, slowly declining to less than 10 percent by age 28. The LR group (approximately 9 percent of the sample) had a steadily increasing arrest trajectory. Their arrest rates increased from a low of 14.8 percent at age 16 to a high of 57 percent by age 28, eventually surpassing all other groups. The HC group composed 5.6 percent of the sample, but its members accounted for 21 percent of all arrests. The arrest rate for this group far exceeded that of the other three groups in late adolescence and early twenties. Girls in the LR group were more likely than their peers to come from homes with family criminality and family substance abuse; and they were more likely than both RN and LC groups to have experienced multiple forms of child maltreatment. Girls assigned to the HC group had a greater proportion who had experienced both sexual and physical abuse as well as out-of-home placement than girls in the RN and LC groups. A trauma-sensitive, family-centered therapeutic approach to female delinquency is recommended. 5 tables, 1 figure, and 34 references

Date Published: March 1, 2009