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Poly-Victimization Among Girls in the Juvenile Justice System: Manifestations & Associations to Delinquency

NCJ Number
Date Published
October 2009
51 pages
This study collected lifespan data on girls' victimization and their juvenile offending in order to determine the range, diversity, and co-occurrence of various types of violence over the course of their lives; to examine independent, relative, and cumulative trajectories of risk for various types of victimization over their lifespans; to examine additional ecological factors related to their victimization; and to examine the relationship of victimization to the nature and chronology of their offending.
The risk trajectories identified from the data show the girls' susceptibility to caregiver violence and the witnessing of violence prior to reaching school age. A second peak in risk occurred during adolescence. Although sexual violence was a risk for girls throughout their lives, it was particularly prevalent during adolescence. The risk for gang or group attacks increased just before pubescence, and the risk for dating violence escalated after pubescence. Caregiver violence showed the greatest stability in predicting the girls' substance use, followed by sexual violence and witnessing violence. The girls' qualitative accounts indicated that the use of alcohol and drugs was a means of coping with various victimizations. This coping mechanism was often modeled for the girls by parents or adult sexual partners. The findings show that delinquent girls need education and services that address alcohol and drug use that stems from traumatic victimization. They also need to develop skills for constructive coping mechanisms that address violence, loss, and other stressors in their lives. In addition, the findings have theoretical implications for the range and consequences of violence exposure for at-risk girls, as well as the design and objectives of service interventions, justice interventions, and efforts to prevent the victimization of girls through work with families and communities. 21 tables, 1 figure, 52 references, and appended data and information on life history chronology and status offending and childhood stability

Date Published: October 1, 2009