Female Delinquency

Female Delinquency

Female Delinquency

Misconduct and unlawful behavior among minors, commonly known as delinquency, has been common among boys as compared to girls. Delinquency among girls however is on the rise and is starting to be worrisome to the juvenile justice system. There is a myriad of emerging issues and factors contributing to this occurrence. These risk factors stem from various sources, and contribute to female delinquency in different ways. This paper will explore the risk factors that have been identified and associated with higher incidences of female offending, and the myths and misconceptions of juvenile female offenders.

The field of juvenile justice is working towards the establishment of the causes of juvenile offending, in order to prevent its occurrence and to reduce incidence through intervention. Risk factors for delinquency fall in various categories also known as domains, depending on the source the risk factor stems from. The categories from which the risk factors stem from include individual, family, school, peer group and community. These risk factors may be of early or late onset.

Individual risk factors stem from the female juvenile offender herself and may be biological, due to genetic make-up or due to acquired factors including lifestyle. These factors include demographic factors such as age, race and ethnicity of the female individual. Teenagers are more susceptible to female delinquency due to the impulsivity associated with this age group. Early onset of puberty as well, may be a predisposing factor to females in this age group. Some races and ethnic groups exhibit higher levels of delinquent behavior as compared to others.

Other individual factors among female include the mental health of the individual and their intimate relationships. Mentally ill individuals are prone to delinquent behavior as compared to those that are mentally stable. Females with erratic and complicated intimate relationships are more susceptible to delinquent behavior. The sexual orientation of a female juvenile offender affects their susceptibility to delinquency as those in minority groups feel the urge to fight for what they believe in and may commit offences in the process. Low intelligence, specifically verbal IQ, impulsivity and antisocial behavior and attitudes are other individual risk factors that predispose to female delinquency.

Family domain presents risk factors that predispose to female delinquency are those that stem mainly from within the family as a unit and from individuals in the family. Factors such as low socioeconomic status predispose to behavior such as stealing among the young girl from such a family. Involvement with parents or siblings with antisocial or criminal behavior, and parental-child conflict or separation predispose the female child to delinquency due to the influence on the child and the desire for the child to get unmet needs for themselves and their siblings. A large sibship increases the likelihood of conflict and increases the chances that children are not adequately provided for. Child maltreatment especially sexual abuse is a major risk factor for delinquent behavior among females. Other risk factors in the family domain include poor family management practices, parental conflict including divorce and separation.

School and peer groups around the female child may predispose them to delinquent behavior. Risk factors surrounding the school domain include poor academic performance, low school bonding and poor attendance. Suspension or expulsion from school, truancy and dropping out from school are other factors that predispose to delinquent behavior among the female child. The peer group domain contributes to various risk factors identified to be associated with female delinquency include association with peers of delinquent or antisocial behavior and peer rejection. In terms of community related risk factors for delinquent behavior, community violence present in some neighborhoods may contribute to delinquent behavior. Community disadvantage is another risk factor that contributes to delinquency among female children.

There are various myths and misconceptions surrounding female juvenile offending are important to the juvenile justice system in handling the rise in female delinquency. One of these is that female delinquency is just a subset of, and a slight variation of delinquency among males. Another myth is that female delinquency arises mainly from sexuality of the female offender and sexuality is therefore the cause or expression of female delinquent behavior. Because of this, it is believed that female offenders have an offence that is sexual in nature and is mostly associated with moral depravity including immorality, waywardness and status offenses.


Heilbrun, K., E, N., Goldstein, S., & Redding, R. E. (2005). Juvenile Delinquency. Oxford University Press.

Howell, J. C. (2009). Preventing and Reducing Juvenile Delinquency: A Comprehensive Framework. SAGE.

Hoyt, S., & Scherer, D. G. (1998). Female Juvenile Delinquency: Misunderstood by the Juvenile Justice System, Neglected by Social Science. Law and Human Behavior, 22.

Siegel, L. J. (2014). Juvenile Delinquency: Theory, Practice, and Law. Cengage Learning.