Onset of Juvenile Court Involvement: Exploring Gender-Specific Associations with Maltreatment and Poverty
Despite increased attention to gender differences in youthful offending, no known studies have examined the relative impact of poverty, maltreatment, and their combination on gender-specific patterns of offending. This research addresses the question of the differential impact of maltreatment and poverty on the onset of status and delinquent petitions for girls compared to boys. A sample of youth born in 1982–1986 in the Midwest was examined. The independent variables were poverty, maltreatment, and both. The risks of delinquent petition and status petition were analyzed using separate Cox proportional hazards models by gender. A second set of analyses were conducted on a subset of youth reported for maltreatment. There was an increase in the likelihood of juvenile court petition based on the combination of poverty and maltreatment risk factors compared to maltreatment only. This increase in risk held true only for the boys in the maltreatment subsample. Thus, the notion of these risk factors being additive is supported with males, but only for females when a non-maltreatment comparison group exists. The gender-specific nature of these relationships supports conceptual propositions that girls’ pathways to the juvenile justice system are distinct from boys’. Implications for theory, research, and practice are discussed.