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Title:The developmental trajectory of delinquency among adolescent females
Author(s):Chiu, Yu-Ling
Director of Research:Ryan, Joseph P.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Wu, Chi-Fang
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Ryan, Joseph P.; Zhan, Min; Helton, Jesse J.; Peters, Clark M.
Department / Program:School of Social Work
Discipline:Social Work
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Juvenile Justice
Girls' Delinquency
Trajectory of delinquency
Child Welfare
Abstract:Most trajectory research related to crime focuses on males and studies offending behaviors from childhood to adulthood (Farrington, 2010). Only very few studies focus on developmental trajectories of female delinquency during adolescence. Given that increasing numbers of girls appear in the juvenile justice system (e.g. Chesney-Lind & Shelden, 2004), given that the offending behaviors of females and males are not identical (e.g. Goodkind, Ng, & Sarri, 2006), and given that there are insufficient empirical studies to provide a good foundation to design effective interventions for delinquent girls (e.g. Le et al., 2003), it is crucial to understand girls’ offending trajectories. In order to address the needs of different types of girls in the juvenile justice system and provide suggestions to inform practice, the current study aims to address questions concerning how girls’ offending behaviors develop over time during adolescence and whether there exist subgroups who follow distinct developmental trajectories. Developmental and life-course theorists in criminology generate different approaches to categorize trajectories of antisocial behaviors. Moffitt’s development taxonomy theory is the main theory applied in this study, and the theory presumes that maladaptive dispositions, antisocial personality, and family adversity are more likely to contribute to a life-persistent offending trajectory, which refers to a chronic offending trajectory in the current study; whereas school or peer related factors are more likely triggers of an adolescence-limited offending trajectory, which is represented as a desist offending trajectory in the current study. Based on Moffitt’s theory, this study addresses a number of hypotheses related to the development of delinquent trajectories in adolescent females. The sample consists of a cohort of 571 females who had their initial arrest at ages 13 to 14 in 2004 and completed pre-screen assessments using the Washington State Juvenile Court Assessment (WSJCA). This sample is a clinical population because Washington state only includes high-risk youth in their assessment process. In order to test the hypotheses concerning the change of girls’ offending over time and to identify subgroups who follow distinctive developmental trajectories, the group-based trajectory model (GBTM) is executed to analyze the course of female offending over 4 years. The current study reveals that there exist distinct delinquent trajectories among higher-risk adolescent females in the state of Washington during adolescence. The findings show that different delinquent trajectory groups exist among high-risk females during adolescence. Two different but related measures, number of offenses and offending severity, were examined and result in dissimilar trajectory models. Among this clinical sample, 17% belong to the chronic offending group and 83% belong to the desist offending trajectory when modeling the number of offenses; however, 57% fall into the severe offending group and the 43% fall into the minor offending group when modeling offending severity. By measuring the estimation of two matrices of joint probabilities of membership between the trajectories modeling number of offenses and offending severity, three joint trajectory groups (minor 42.9%, severe-desist 40.5% and severe-chronic groups 16.6%) emerged. The findings reveal the girls who are not African American, who had not been associated with the child protection system, had been detained in 2004, were enrolled in school at least part-time, or had school conduct problems tended to develop along the minor offending trajectory. The girls who had alcohol use, believed in fighting and physical aggression to resolve disagreements or conflicts, were enrolled in school at least part-time, or had poorer school attendance were more likely to become severe-desist offenders. Girls who were more likely to develop a severe-chronic trajectory were African American, had been associated with the child protection system, had drug use, had mental health problems, had aggressive attitudes toward responsible, law abiding behaviors, believed in fighting and physical aggression to resolve disagreements or conflicts, dropped out, were suspended, or were expelled from school, or had poor academic performance. Moreover, the girls in chronic, severe, severe-desist, or severe-chronic trajectory groups were at increased risk of being arrested again at ages 18 or 19 than their counterparts. The current study reveals that race, child welfare contacts, mental health, substance use, aggressive attitudes, and school experiences are intersecting and contribute to different delinquent trajectories among these high-risk adolescent females. In discussing these factors further, this study posits that the loss of secure relationships might trigger girls to be involved in delinquent behaviors, which could imply that delinquent girls share common needs. However, the current study finds that there is still a spectrum of delinquent behaviors among girls. The backgrounds of girls in the desist trajectory groups are different from those in the chronic trajectory, which could result in different individual service needs. Therefore, it is vital for both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems to tailor individual needs into their policy and intervention programs.
Issue Date:2014-09-16
Rights Information:Copyright 2014 Yu-Ling Chiu
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-09-16
Date Deposited:2014-08

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