Thursday, October 9, 2008

Are Girls More Violent Today?

I share this with you because of our many discussions about gender.

Recently 'Dear Abby' responded to a letter from a grandmother whose granddaughter had attacked her when she refused to loan her the car. Yesterday, there was another from a mother whose daughter attacked her.

In the not-for-profit and law enforcement communities there's been a lot of talk about the increase of violence by girls. Is this a cultural change?

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (a branch of the US Department of Justice) established a "Girls Study Group" (GSG) in 2004. Now they're beginning to publish the results of their research. (Bold formating is mine)

OJJDP News @ a Glance - September/October 2008: "One of the findings of the GSG is that girls are not more violent now than in previous years. Comparative analysis of official and self-report data revealed that the increase in girls' arrests is due largely to a change in how the juvenile justice system is responding to girls' behavior. Further analysis indicates that the increase in girls' arrests appears to be an unintended result of relatively new mandatory, or proarrest, policies put in place to protect victims of domestic violence. This outcome highlights the need to work with law enforcement to identify appropriate responses to conflict between girls and their family members, and for communities to support and provide families with access to family-strengthening and mediation programs that provide intervention rather than just simply arrest.

Clearly, family-strengthening and mediation needs to be available to all families -- not just girls. How do we teach families that have a pattern of resolving conflicts with violence that there are other, more effective, less harmful methods?

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