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Girls in the Juvenile Justice System
By The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention with Samantha Ehrmann, Nina Hyland, and Charles Puzzanchera
Published: 06/03/2019

Delinquent girl A Message From OJJDP

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) supported the statistical analyses reported in this bulletin to help the field better understand the nature of girls’ offending and how the justice system handles cases involving girls. The authors drew upon three national data collections—the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program and OJJDP’s National Juvenile Court Data Archive and Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement—to create a statistical portrait of girls in the juvenile justice system, including trends in the demographics of this population, the offenses they committed, and how they move through the system.

Both genders’ involvement in the juvenile justice system has declined at similar rates over the past decade. However, focusing on the overall trend may obscure important details. For example, although girls accounted for less than one-third of youth arrests in 2015, they made up a relatively large share for certain types of offenses, such as larceny-theft and liquor law violations. Additionally, 2015 data reveal that the offense profiles of petitioned status offense and delinquency cases involving younger girls differ from those of older girls.

The examination of these types of trends and characteristics of girls in the juvenile justice system is critical to assessing needs, identifying potential service gaps, and directing interventions for this population. OJJDP prepared this bulletin to help states, communities, and tribal jurisdictions understand the national trends and consider how they may use their own data to identify and target effective and cost-efficient strategies for girls.

Caren Harp


This bulletin presents statistics on girls in the juvenile justice system from three national data collections, covering their involvement from arrest through residential placement. It also provides an analysis of trends and case processing in addition to characteristics of the youth studied and their offenses.
  • Arrests involving girls decreased by more than half (53%) between 2006 and 2015, reaching their lowest point in three decades.
  • Delinquency cases and petitioned status cases involving girls also reached their lowest points since the early 1990s, decreasing 43% and 44%, respectively, from 2006 through 2015.
  • After falling 47% since 2006, the number of females in placement in 2015 was at its lowest level since at least 1997.
  • Since 2006, the proportion of females remained relatively constant for arrests, delinquency cases, petitioned status cases, and youth in placement.
  • Larceny-theft, simple assault, and disorderly conduct accounted for 50% of arrests and 56% of delinquency cases involving girls in 2015. Truancy offenses accounted for more than half (55%) of petitioned status offense cases involving females.
  • In 2015, delinquency cases involving girls were less likely to be petitioned, adjudicated, or result in out-of-home placement than cases involving boys.
The latest data highlight trends and characteristics of girls in the juvenile justice system and the system’s response to them.

Boys have always accounted for the majority of youth involved in the juvenile justice system. Consequently, advancements in policy and practice tended to focus on males. As the number of female youth entering the juvenile justice system grew throughout the 1990s, policymakers and researchers shifted their attention to girls to better understand the reasons behind this increase [1].

In 2004, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) established the Girls Study Group to examine what influences delinquent behavior among girls and how the juvenile justice system should respond. The group disseminated knowledge acquired from literature reviews, studies, and assessments through its bulletin series Understanding and Responding to Girls’ Delinquency. Today, OJJDP provides funds to support comprehensive, community-based services for girls in an effort to reduce violence and victimization and to promote public safety.

Research has revealed the various adversities many girls face as well as their unique responses to trauma that place them at risk for entering the system. This statistical bulletin presents a national portrait of girls involved with the juvenile justice system as assessed through three national data collections: the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI’s) Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program, OJJDP’s National Juvenile Court Data Archive, and OJJDP’s Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement. The bulletin examines recent trends of girls involved in the system and addresses their demographics, the offenses that led to their involvement, and how they move through the system.

Click here to view the full report.

[1] Zahn, M.A., Hawkins, S.R., Chiancone, J., and Whitworth, A. 2008. The Girls Study Group—Charting the Way to Delinquency Prevention for Girls. Girls Study Group series. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of


This bulletin was written by Samantha Ehrmann and Nina Hyland, Research Assistants, and Charles Puzzanchera, Senior Research Associate, at the National Center for Juvenile Justice, with funds provided by OJJDP to support the National Juvenile Court Data Archive and the National Juvenile Justice Data Analysis Program.


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