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Violence by Teenage Girls: Trends and Context

NCJ Number
Date Published
May 2008
24 pages
Publication Series
Drawing on information from official arrest sources, nationally based self-report and victimization surveys, and studies reported in the social science literature, this bulletin examines the involvement of girls in violent behavior, including whether such activity has increased relative to the increase for boys and the contexts in which girls engage in violent behavior.
For the purposes of this analysis violence is defined as "behaviors that inflict or threaten to inflict bodily injury on other persons." Arrest, victimization, and self-report data suggest that although girls are currently arrested more for simple assaults than previously, the actual incidence of their being seriously violent has not changed much over the last two decades. This suggests that increases in girls' arrests for violence may be due more to change in enforcement policies than to actual changes in girls' behavior. Juvenile female violence has not increased relative to juvenile male violence. The contexts for girls' violence are peer interactions, family interactions, at school, within disadvantaged neighborhoods, and in gangs. Girls fight with peers to gain status, to defend their sexual reputation, and in self-defense against sexual harassment. Girls fight more frequently with parents than do boys, who engage in more violence outside the home. Girls' violence against parents is multidimensional. For some, it involves reactions against their perception of being overly controlled; for others, it is a defense against or anger at being sexually and/or physically abused by family members. Girls fight at school in self-defense. Girls in disadvantaged neighborhoods commit violence due to their increased risk of victimization and frustration at the lack of opportunities for success. Girls associated with male gangs exhibit more violence than those in all-female gangs. Girls in gangs are more violent than other girls, but are less violent than boys in gangs. 2 tables, 5 figures, 8 notes, and 91 references

Date Published: May 1, 2008