Developmental Trajectories of Boys’ and Girls’ Delinquency: Sex Differences and Links to Later Adolescent Outcomes

Abstract

This study examined gender differences in trajectories of delinquent behaviors over a 6-year period in adolescence and differential outcomes of these diverse developmental pathways. Participants were 754 children who were part of a longitudinal study of the development of early starting conduct problems. Four trajectory patterns were identified across grades 7–12: increasing, desisting, chronic, and nonproblem groups. Although the proportion of boys and girls varied across the pathways, both genders were represented on these trajectories. Boys were more represented on the chronic and desisting trajectories; girls were more represented in the nonproblem group. However, the proportion of boys and girls was similar in the increasing trajectory. Trajectory membership significantly predicted age 19 outcomes for partner violence, risky sexual behavior and depression, and the risk conferred on these negative adjustment outcomes did not vary by gender. The overall pattern was characterized by poor outcomes at age 19 for youth in both the chronic and the increasing trajectories. The major conclusion is that, other than base rate differences, developmental patterns and outcomes for girls mimic those previously found for boys.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Reliance on single item measures for reports of risky sexual behavior and pregnancy was dictated by the data available in the study. Although the use of single items can yield criterion and predictive validity (e.g., Miller-Johnson et al. 2004; Zimmerman et al. 2006). multiple item scales would yield a more in-depth analysis of key constructs.

  2. 2.

    The participants who were neither African American nor European American were excluded from the attrition analyses for ethnicity.

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Correspondence to Shari Miller.

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Miller, S., Malone, P.S., Dodge, K.A. et al. Developmental Trajectories of Boys’ and Girls’ Delinquency: Sex Differences and Links to Later Adolescent Outcomes. J Abnorm Child Psychol 38, 1021–1032 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-010-9430-1

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Keywords

  • Delinquency
  • Antisocial behavior
  • Sex differences
  • Trajectories