Violent girls or relabeled status offenders? An alternative interpretation of the data

Barry C. Feld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


Policy makers and juvenile justice officials express alarm over the rise in arrests of girls for simple and aggravated assault. Others see this perceived increase as an artifact of decreased public tolerance for violence, changes in parental attitudes or law enforcement policies, or heightened surveillance of domestic violence, which disproportionately affects girls. The author contends that the social construction of girls' violence may reflect policy changes in the juvenile justice system itself, especially the deinstitutionalization of status offenders. The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act deinstitutionalization mandates encouraged --bootstrapping- or --relabeling- female status offenders as delinquents to retain access to facilities in which to confine --incorrigible- girls. The author analyzes data on changes in arrest patterns and confinement for boys and girls charged with simple and aggravated assault, arguing that differences in rates, victims, and confinement for --violent- boys and girls support a relabeling interpretation of the supposed rise in girls' violence consistent with the social construction thesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)241-265
Number of pages25
JournalCrime and Delinquency
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2009

Bibliographical note

Copyright 2012 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Girls' violence
  • Labeling
  • Social construction of violence


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