Exploring Girls' Participation in Violence Essay

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Exploring Girls' Participation in Violence


Youth violence, and particularly violence carried out by girls, has been the subject of intense media attention recently, with an ever-increasing number of girls portrayed as carrying guns in their mouths and participating in violent crime. Although the percentage of girls' involvement in delinquency and crime has increased in the last two decades, it is still far below the level of boys' involvement, and it differs quite significantly.

There is a paucity of literature on girls' violence, as most research on youth violence does not distinguish between girls and boys. The most comprehensive and extensive literature reviews on young women's crime and delinquency have
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Based on an analysis of FBI statistics, arrests of girls for murder were up 64 percent; robbery arrests, 114 percent; aggravated assault, 137 percent; and other assaults, 126 percent (Chesney-Lind & Brown, 1999).

There are a number of reasons why these figures need to be interpreted cautiously. First, there has been a parallel increase in boys' arrest rate for violent offenses since 1985. Chesney-Lind and Brown assert, "this pattern, then, reflects overall changes in youth behavior, rather than dramatic changes and shifts in the character of girls' behavior" (1999, p. 176). In addition, boys are far more likely than girls to be arrested for violent crimes (homicide, forcible rape, aggravated assault) and serious property offenses (burglary, arson). Girls account for a very small percentage of violent crime, and violent crime by girls is a small percentage of all girls' delinquency, and it has remained essentially unchanged since the mid-1980s. Only 2.1 percent of girls' arrests in 1985 were for serious crimes of violence; the figure climbed only slightly, to 3.4 percent, by 1994. Thus, large increases in girls' violent crime rate translate into only small increases in the number of crimes committed.

Another explanation for the increase in girls' violent offenses is a redefinition of what constitutes a violent offense. For example, a review of 2,000 cases of young women referred to the Maryland juvenile justice system for
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