Awarded New Investigator/Doctoral Dissertation Grant

Abstract

The recent rise in female perpetrated violence has prompted empirical scrutiny by researchers and policy Makers in an effort to inform interventions and prevention programs. Even though female offenders still comprise a smaller percentage of juvenile arrests relative to male offenders, they utilize a disproportionate number of resources within the justice and social service systems. Furthermore, the well-documented racial disparities that exist in the broader criminal justice system (i.e. an over-representation of African-Americans
Relative to Caucasians) also exist with female juvenile offenders. However, little is known regarding the differential mechanisms, particularly the psychosocial risk factors, which lead to antisocial behavior in African American and Caucasians girls.

The proposed study moves beyond treating female offenders as a Homogenous grouping an effort to extrapolate race-based differences in responses to the same risk factors. Specifically, we will examine whether exposure to past violence—both as a witness or a victim—predicts Perpetration of future violence, and whether this pathway functions differently among African Americans and Caucasians. The proposed study utilizes longitudinal data from an in-depth study on violent adolescent female offenders. Wave I data were collected from every girl in the state of Virginia who was sentenced to secure custody during an 18 month (June, 2003 to November, 2004) time period. Wave II data collection is current underway; interviews are being conducted with girls who have been released from secure custody for a minimum of 6 months. Waves I and II consists of a comprehensive assessment of victimization, violence observation, and aggression, as well as violence perpetration using a multi-informant, multi-method research design. The proposed study will utilize both Waves of data and examine whether a differential risk response exists between African American (n = 67) and Caucasian (n = 53) female offenders.

The aims of the study are to: (1) document the prevalence, chronicity, and form of violence exposure among African-American and Caucasian juvenile female offenders; (2) assess race-specific interactive pathways between witnessing and experiencing violence over time; and (3) examine race-specific risk models on future violence perpetration as predicted by previous violence exposure. Investigating the differential responses that lead to antisocial behavior is necessary to elucidate the appropriate interventions. The implications of these findings are particularly pertinent to the public health system which serves these high risk females.