Girls’ Violence and Juvenile Justice

A Critical Examination

Authored by: Lisa Pasko , Meda Chesney-Lind

Routledge Handbook of Critical Criminology

Print publication date:  October  2011
Online publication date:  October  2011

Print ISBN: 9780415779678
eBook ISBN: 9780203864326
Adobe ISBN: 9781135192808


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For the past decade, juvenile justice professionals, policy-makers, and scholars have expressed concern over girls’ increasing use of violence. For example, despite the current era of reduced youth violence, between 1997 and 2008, girls’ arrests for robbery went up by 37.7 percent and their arrests for simple assault rose by 12.2 percent (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2009). In addition, girls’ arrests for aggravated assault dropped at a much smaller rate than those of boys: girls’ arrests dropped by only 17 percent, compared with a 22 percent decrease for boys (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2009). Juvenile court and correctional data reveal a similar theme. Since 1996, girls’ adjudications have increased by 12 percent for aggravated assault and 38 percent for simple assault (Puzancherra and Kang, 2008). Nationally, girls now represent 26 percent of all aggravated assault cases and 34 percent of all simple assault cases handled by juvenile courts (Puzancherra and Kang, 2008). Likewise, girls’ commitments for assault have also been on the rise. In 1996, 2,535 girls were court-ordered to residential placement for assault; in 2005, that number reached 3,007 (18.6 percent increase) (Sickmund, Sladky, & Kang, 2008). Given these dramatic increases, it is not surprising that both the media and scholars have shifted their attention to girls’ violence. However, such focus of attention usually involves exaggerated commentary on gang behavior, schoolyard fights, mean girl bullying (relational aggression), or domestic violence-related actions rather than a judicious exploration of the contexts that produce girls’ violence as well as the dynamics involved (Chesney-Lind and Irwin, 2008).

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