Law and Human Behavior

, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 81-107

First online:

Female Juvenile Delinquency: Misunderstood by the Juvenile Justice System, Neglected by Social Science

  • Stephanie HoytAffiliated withUniversity of South Carolina
  • , David G. SchererAffiliated withCollege of Education, University of New Mexico Email author 


The study of juvenile delinquency has focused primarily on conduct disorder and aggression in males, while relatively little attention has been paid to females who commit delinquent acts. This article offers a critical review of the existing theories of and research on female delinquency and the juvenile justice system's response to female delinquency. The inadequacies and persistence of historical theories and the conceptual and methodological strengths and weaknesses of contemporary perspectives in female delinquency are reviewed. Understanding and treatment of female and male delinquency could be enhanced through the adoption of a gender-integrated theory of delinquency that is informed by the comprehensive study of developmental, psychological, and social-ecological determinants.