Juvenile Justice Professionals


Gender differences in the propensity to delinquent behavior

Boys get in trouble. Girls get in trouble. But girls and boys often get into different kinds of trouble, and for different reasons. In the United States and Canada today, there is little difference in the overall rates of alcohol abuse, when comparing teenage girls with teenage boys; but there are big differences in why girls drink compare with why boys drink (see chapters 1 and 3 of my third book Girls on the Edge for more on this topic).

It’s not quite accurate to say that kids want to become adults. It’s more accurate to say that girls want to become women, and boys want to become men. But what does it mean, “to become a man”, today, in 21st century North American culture? We no longer provide boys any guidance. So boys look to their peers, and to the marketplace, and to the Internet, which teaches them that being a real man means engaging in acts of violence; or joining a gang; or getting drunk; or having sex. Likewise, girls often get into trouble because they are trying to enact the caricatures of femininity which are presented to them online and in broadcast media. How have other youth justice officers in other communities across North America addressed this issue? Which programs have been successful, and which have not, and why?

Contact Dr. Sax