Girls become delinquent for vastly different reasons than boys based on biological, social and cultural differences displayed in each gender. From the onset of hormones and brain development, to the child’s upbringing by families, to the way girls are expected to act in public as opposed to boys; a different set of circumstances exists for the reasons girls become delinquent compared with boys. Siegel et al. (2007, p.174) explains this by stating. “There are indications that gender differences in socialization and development do exist and that they may have an effect on juvenile offending patterns.”
Boys and girls each are socialized by parents, communities and society in different ways such that boys react and behave differently than girls do. Boys traditionally are taught to be independent, more aggressive in obtaining goals and act out in more angry and retributive fashion that girls do. On the other hand, girls are taught to be more relationship oriented, to think before acting which results in less aggression and anger as well as to internalize the blame and acts associated with wrong doing and anger (Siegel et al., 2007).
The psychological differences in boys and girls are quite different as well. Take for example that boys develop the traits involving more methodical and strategic ability with the onset of increasing self confidence and materialistic views of the world. On the other hand females traditionally have more verbal acuity and more self awareness as well as lowering self esteem as the years go on and thereby becoming more conscientious of how they look, talk and act making them very anxious around others (Siegel, et al., 2007).
The cultural differences are apparent in the “gender roles” both males and females are attributed to early in life. Boys traditionally play the role of the masculine figure being assertive or aggressive in behavior and being taught that physical play, peer orientation and leadership is essential in filling the roles set out by American culture. Young girls are taught that being feminine and expressing traits such as sympathy and kindness are key. Furthermore, they are taught that they should seek approval for their behavior by others and that playing the role of caretaker, internalizing feelings and not expressing those feelings for fear of being scrutinized by everyone when it comes to how to act which is a constant reminder of how they should act in the exact opposite ways of young boys.
Biologically speaking, the biggest differences in how males and females act ,think and respond to the environment has to do with hormones. Males are driven off of testosterone which fuels aggression, muscle formation and reactions such as anger and physicality, while estrogen serves females by creating the less muscular body characteristics, creating softer and gentler reactions to the environment with that of reason, forethought and passiveness. Either way, the vast differences in brain development, aggression, violence and general personality and attitude come from the varying levels of hormones in each gender which can account for different delinquency patterns and causes.
When the socialization, cultural, biological and psychological factors form a perfect storm of risk factors for young people to enter into deviant behavior, the interjection of poor peer selection, lack of family involvement, low socio-economic conditions, poor environmental factors, and poor authority figures in their lives propels these once innocent conditions into a road to crime. The end resulsts can be the fact that boys tend to be involved in more aggressive and strategic oriented crimes tends to follow the patterns of socialization, biology and psychology. This is where you will see more violent, aggressive and external crimes of battery, gang involvement, robbery and burglary. The end result for girls comes with the conclusion that they are more prone to be involved in more passive and self afflicting crimes such as status offenses, drug use and prostitution also lends credence to the biological, social and psychological basis for gender differences in society. Here you will see truancy, shoplifting, and petty theft which are less obvious and less violent and aggressive in nature.
However, there is evidence that female instances of gang involvement, violent crimes and more aggressive crimes are on the rise in America. Carney (2007) explains that this may be due to the juvenile justice system becoming more equitable in the how they treat females more appropriately with the crimes they commit as opposed to being lenient based on things such as the “chivalry factor”, which posits that male law enforcement and judicial leaders go easy on the females as opposed to males. Furthermore, the double standards on sexually based crimes are losing some of its favor to the more appropriate and equitable justice to both males and females that commit the varying types of crimes. It could be as simple as the fact that females have always perpetrated the same types of crimes as males, and just recently have the numbers began to balance out based on more fair and equitable treatment of both genders.
Either way, the premise here is for parents to pay attention to the things your children learn and are active in. Also, pay close attention to the peers they are close with and spend most of their time with. Popular wisdom these days is to closely monitor the online social networking and information exchange as to limit the more extreme facets of the internet. Finally, stay involved with your child’s school progress and activities, plan family time, have an open and honest communication line and never be afraid or embarrassed to seek out aid from an array of professionals in your school, community and neighborhood.
By doing some of these little things, you prevent the negative socialization that can lead to deviant behavior, at the same time you will model good behavior and keep those biological and psychological factors at bay so that you have time to deal with issues before they become real problems. As the current information exists, both boys and girls are racing towards delinquency faster and faster and though it may be a tie between the genders, the girls may be pulling in front of the boys. In any event, there are way too many participants in the race and we as parents and responsible members of society need to aid in reducing the number of racers in the sprint towards juvenile hall and ultimately adult prison.
Carney, F. J. (2007). Female youth crime: Are girls and boys treated differently? Retrieved August 16, 2007, from Boston University, Criminal Justice Department Web site: http://vista.bu.edu/webct/cobaltMainFrame.dowebct.
Siegel, L. J., Welsh, B. C. & Senna, J. J. (2006). Juvenile delinquency: Theory,
practice and law. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth.