Exploring Gender Differences in Juvenile Offenders: Understanding Girls on Probation
2016-06-21T00:00:00Z (GMT) by
This exploratory study of gender and racial differences in risk and protective factors and the recidivism of youth on probation in Cook County, Illinois was conducted using secondary data analysis. Information was collected by probation officers and clinicians using the Youth Assessment Screening Instrument (YASI) on 5,831 girls and boys ages 12 to 17 comprising demographics, risk and protective factor characteristics and unique identifiers (names, birthdates and IDs). Associations between race, gender, risk and protection, and recidivism were examined. This dissertation project involved the linkage of administrative probation information available from the Cook County Juvenile Probation Department to court records from the Office of the Chief Judge. The creation of this unique dataset and the resulting dissertation indicated that girls experienced more risk factors than boys while boys experienced more protective factors than girls. Many of the risk factors for girls and boys were consistent with previous research. Unlike girls, boys had significant findings across most racial/ethnic groups and across recidivism. Seven percent of the sample recidivated including a higher number of boys than girls (7.5% and 3.2%, respectively). One significant risk factor for boys for recidivism was age at first offense. The significant protective factors for boys that didn’t recidivate were appropriate parental discipline and being close to prosocial peers. Separate multivariate analyses for boys and girls could not be conducted due to the small sample of girls that recidivated. Intensive family focused mental health and substance abuse treatment would be useful to address some of the family issues that girls experience. Social workers have an important role as providers but also as advocates to lobby legislators for increased funding to support innovative treatment services. Future knowledge concerning recidivism of youth, their risk and protective factors associated with their probation status, with practical implications relating to the identification of specific factors that may directly influence desistance, the targeting of appropriate services and the future prevention of delinquent behavior of girls is needed.