Juvenile Justice-Involved Girls Spend More Time in Placement Than Boys



Juvenile Justice-Involved Girls Spend More Time in Placement Than Boys


Girls who access mental health services and/or violate probation are more likely than boys in the same situations to be removed from their homes by the juvenile justice system, finds a recent study by NCCD senior researcher Erin Espinosa, PhD.

The study also found that, once removed, girls spend more time in out-of-home placement than boys and that having received public mental health treatment and/or having experienced trauma slows girls’ release from placement while severity of offense slows release for boys.

Data for the study were based on 271,427 youth who were processed for delinquency or status offenses, accessed public mental health treatment, and were placed out of home during a seven-year period. Girls made up 19% of the sample, and boys 81%. Key findings are highlighted below.

  • Girls had fewer severe offense histories and prior out-of-home placements than boys.
  • Girls had higher rates of traumatic experiences and higher rates of receiving warnings on the state’s mental health screening instrument.
  • Girls were almost two times more likely than boys to end up in secure out-of-home placement (both state and county) for a violation of probation.
  • Once removed from the home, with all other indicators constant, girls were released from those institutions at a slower pace than boys.
  • Specifically, being held in post-adjudicatory, secure county-operated facilities reduced females’ odds of being discharged during a given interval by 20%.

In summary, holding gender constant, the strongest predictors of receiving a secure out-of-home placement were as follows.

  • Violation of probation
  • Prior probation
  • Having received community-based public mental health services

Erin EspinosaEspinosa co-authored an article on the study published recently in the journal Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice. Learn more about the article, titled “Youth Pathways: Evaluating the Influence of Gender, Involvement With the Public Mental Health System, Perceived Mental Health Need, and Traumatic Experiences on Juvenile Justice System Processing,” here. Dr. Espinosa will present a webinar on the study’s findings in the coming months.

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