Girls and Person Offenses

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Girls and Person Offenses

Girls' arrests, admissions to detention, and commitments to corrections were more likely than boys' to be for person offenses, most often misdemeanor battery.

Boys had higher rates of offending than girls for all crime offense categories, but girls' juvenile justice system involvement was more likely to be for person offenses. At all stages in the system, girls had a higher proportion of involvement for person offenses, often related to battery and assault. This finding is similar to national findings that girls are increasingly involved in the juvenile justice system for person offenses, particularly for offenses against those with whom the girls have a relationship.(15) When girls commit offenses against another person it is often due to influences of a violent culture from peers, gangs, families, schools, and disadvantaged neighborhoods.(16)

Arrests for person offenses

Person offenses include assault, battery, homicide, intimidation, kidnapping, offenses involving children, and robbery. Girls' arrests were more likely than boys' to be for person offenses, although usually for misdemeanors. Arrests for person offenses among both girls and boys were largely for battery, with girls' arrests more often for misdemeanor battery than boys.

In 2007, 33 percent of girls' arrests (n=3,476) and 26 percent of boys' (n=9,830) were for person offenses.

For both boys and girls, person offense arrests were more often for misdemeanor offenses, however, girls' person offense arrests were more likely than boys' to be for misdemeanors. Eighty percent of girls' person arrests (n=2,783) and 69 percent of boys' (n=6,799) were for misdemeanors. Conversely, 20 percent of girls' (n=693) and 31 percent of boys' (n=3,030) person arrests were for felonies.

Most juvenile arrests for person offenses were for battery (n=9,725 or 73 percent). Girls' battery arrests were more likely to be for misdemeanors than boys'. Eighty-four percent of female person offense arrests were for battery (n=2,921), and 81 percent of those battery arrests were misdemeanors (n=2,372). Sixty-nine percent of boys' person arrests were for battery (n=6,804) and 79 percent of those arrests were misdemeanors (n=5,409). Table 2 shows the arrests by the type of offense against a person among boys and girls by class in 2007.

Table 2
Person offense arrests by type, class, and gender, 2007

Girls Boys
Misdemeanor Felony Misdemeanor Felony
Assault 404
Battery 2,372
Homicide 0
Intimidation 2
Kidnapping 1
Offenses involving children (e.g. neglect) 4
Robbery 0
Total of person offenses 2,783

During the time period examined, most person arrests for boys and girls were misdemeanors. The proportion of girls' person offense arrests for misdemeanors consistently remained higher than boys'. Figure 16 shows the proportion of misdemeanor and felony arrests by gender from 2002 to 2007.

Figure 16
Percent of person arrests by offense class within gender, 2002-2007

Line Chart: 4 Lines (Girls Misdemeanor, Girls Felony, Boys Felony, Boys Misdemeanor) Percent of arrests by gender

Girls Felony: Starts around 18% in 2002 and slowly rises to 20% in 2007

Boys Felony: Starts around 29% in 2002 drops a bit in 2004, then meanders up to around 30% in 2007

Boys Misdemeanor: Starts around 72% in 2002 and rises to around 74% in 2004, then drops to around 69% in 2006, but is back to almost 70% in 2007

Girls Misdemeanor: Stars around 83% in 2002, and gradually drops to 80% in 2007

Source: Authority's CHRI Ad Hoc datasets

Reporting misdemeanor arrests to CHRI are not mandatory, therefore, these findings are a conservative estimate. These data support mounting arguments that girls may be arrested for less serious person offenses more often than boys.(17)

The difference between male and female arrests for misdemeanor classes and felony classes in 2007 was significant but substantively small. A Yate's chi-square test found a statistically significant association between gender and class group (?2 = 151.28, df = 1, p<.001), but subsequent phi and phi-square tests, which are less sensitive to sample size, indicate the association is weak (? = 0.106, ?2 = 0.01).

Yule's Q analysis showed that approximately 28 percent of the variation in offense class was predicted by gender (Q = 0.283). As misdemeanor arrest reporting is voluntary, these findings are a conservative estimate and the relationship is likely to be stronger. Additional statistical analyses examining gender differences are discussed later.