Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

16214 Girl Delinquency: Identifying Unique Needs and Modeling Recidivism

Sunday, January 15, 2012: 10:45 AM
Arlington (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Abigail B. Williams, MSW, Doctoral Student, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL
Joseph P. Ryan, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL
Background: Girls are considered one of the fastest growing segments of the juvenile justice population (Leve, Chamberlain, & Reid, 2005). Although there is emerging literature indicating that girls come into contact with the juvenile justice system for different reasons relative to boys, prior studies are largely limited to comparisons of individual demographics and offense types (Feld, 2009). The current study addresses this significant gap in the literature. Specifically we analyze ten years of statewide administrative and risk assessment data to better understand and identify the unique needs of girls in the juvenile justice system. We also extend these comparative analyses and focus on how specific dynamic and static risk factors help explain recidivism. Methods: We analyze longitudinal administrative and risk assessment data from the Washington State Center for Court Research. Our sample includes all juvenile offenders (n=116,213) who completed the Washington State Juvenile Court Assessment (WSJCA) between 2000 and 2009. The WSJCA was derived from a modified version of Baird's 1984 Wisconsin Risk Scale (WSIPP, 2004).The instrument focuses on the following static and dynamic risk factors: criminal history, school, use of free time, employment, relationships, family, alcohol and drugs, mental health, attitudes and behaviors, and skills. We use descriptive statistics and logistic regression to understand the unique characteristics of girls at entry into juvenile justice and to understand the association between various domains of their risk and recidivism. Results: The descriptive analyses indicate that 84% of girls enter the juvenile justice system for a misdemeanor offense compared to 69% of boys. Thirty-two percent of boys entered for a felony offense compared to only 17% of girls. Among the moderate to high offenders, girls were more likely to have a mental health diagnosis, suicidal ideation, and conflict within family relationships. Girls and boys were similar in regards to age, drug and alcohol use, pro-social and anti-social peers, and school enrollment. The regression models indicate a somewhat complicated story for girls and their risk of recidivism in that the findings varied significantly by race. For white girls, age (Exp() = .91), school attendance (Exp() = 1.16), pro social peers(Exp() = .87), parental control(Exp() = 1.47), family conflict(Exp() = 1.13), and substance use (Exp() = 1.15), helped explain the risk of recidivism. For African American and Hispanic girls, only age (Exp() = .85) (Exp() = .92), and pro social peers (Exp() = .75) (Exp() = .77), were significant. Conclusions and Implications: Girls are increasingly exposed to the juvenile justice system. Yet little is known about their unique service needs and how best to interrupt offending trajectories. The findings indicate that girls look significantly different than boys in a variety of domains including school, family and mental health status. With regard to recidivism, the variation in regression models by race indicate that one size will not fit all when developing innovating programs for female offenders. The risk factors that help explain recidivism are different for white, African American and Hispanic girls. It is important for practitioners and policy makers to recognize these differences.
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