Does nature of offense matter? : an examination of psychological and relationship factors between aggressive and non-aggressive female juvenile offenders
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The current study sought to distinguish psychological and relationship differences among female juvenile offenders who have committed aggressive offenses and female juvenile offenders who have committed non-aggressive offenses. Various demographic differences were examined between the two groups including age of first offense, length of involvement in the juvenile justice system, and number of offenses. Psychological adaptive and maladaptive factors were explored as well as the participants’ relationships within their family, peer groups, and school contexts. The Behavioral Assessment System for Children (Reynolds & Kamphaus, 1992), the Assessment of Interpersonal Relations (Bracken, 1993), and the Family Assessment Device (Epstein, Baldwin, & Bishop, 1983) were the primary instruments utilized in this study. The Relational/Cultural theory, which emphasizes the critical role of relationships in the positive development of adolescent girls and women, was used as a theoretical framework. The study sample included 120 Georgia female juvenile offenders ages 12- 17. Analysis of Variance was the statistical procedure utilized to examine differences between the two groups on each factor. Findings suggest that although aggressive female juvenile offenders typically have more offenses and are involved in the juvenile justice system for a longer period of time than non-aggressive female juvenile offenders, there does not appear to be significant differences between the two groups of female juvenile offenders on a variety of psychological factors. An exploration of the critical relationships in the participants’ lives yielded no significant differences between aggressive and non-aggressive female juvenile offenders in regards to their family or peer relationships. However, female adolescents who have committed aggressive offenses expressed significantly more negative attitudes towards their teachers than female adolescents who have solely committed non-aggressive offenses. In conclusion, this study identifies several methods to address the treatment needs of aggressive and nonaggressive female juvenile offenders.