AN EVALUATION OF THE INFLUENCE OF GENDER AND

MENTAL HEALTH NEED ON JUVENILE JUSTICE SYSTEM PROCESSING
A Dissertation Presented
to
The Faculty of the Department of Justice Studies
College of Juvenile Justice and Psychology

In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirement for the Degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
of
Juvenile Justice
By:
Erin M. Espinosa

December 2011
Prairie View A&M University
Prairie View, Texas
Certificate of Dissertation Approval
December, 2011
TO THE COMMITTEE OF GRADUATE STUDY:
1

The undersigned on this date examined Erin Marie Espinosa for the awarding of the
doctoral degree and hereby certify that the dissertation was inspected by each of us and
was approved.
Approved:
____________________________________________
Jonathan Sorensen, Ph.D.
College of Juvenile Justice and Psychology

(Chair)

_____________________________________________
Harry Adams, Ph.D.
College of Juvenile Justice and Psychology

_____________________________________________
Camille Gibson, Ph.D.
College of Juvenile Justice and Psychology

_____________________________________________
William Kritsonis, Ph.D.
College of Education
Approved:

_____________________________________________
Willie F. Trotty
Dean, Graduate School

2

Abstract
An Evaluation of the Influence of Gender and Mental Health Need in Juvenile
Justice System Processing (December 2011)
Erin M. Espinosa, B.A., Angelo State University;
M.P.A., Angelo State University
Chair of Advisory Committee: Dr. Jon Sorensen, Chair
There is a general consensus that female juvenile offenders are often removed
from their homes for less serious offenses than their male counterparts. However there
has been limited research on the role of gender in juvenile justice processing. Of the
studies that have been published to date, the primary research on female juvenile
offending has been limited to samples within one specific pre-adjudication (detention) or
post adjudication (state operated youth prisons) placement type and location. Previous
studies suggest that there is a correlation between female juvenile offending and mental
health diagnosis, and that offenders with mental health needs are disproportionally
represented in juvenile justice institutions. Other than descriptive evaluations, there is a
very limited research on the influence of gender and mental health need in the disposition
decisions resulting in out-of-home placement for juvenile offenders. By utilizing a
structured methodology this study evaluated the pathway differences for female juvenile
offenders in comparison to their male counterparts. Specific analysis evaluated the
influence of gender and mental health need on juvenile court decisions resulting in outof-home placement while controlling for offense severity.
3

Dedication

4

Acknowledgements

5

Table of Contents
Certificate of Dissertation Approval...............................................................................................ii
Abstract.........................................................................................................................................iii
Dedication.....................................................................................................................................iv
Acknowledgements........................................................................................................................v
List of Tables.................................................................................................................................ix
Chapter I.........................................................................................................................................1
Purpose of the Study...................................................................................................................5
Current Study..............................................................................................................................8
Objectives...............................................................................................................................8
Organization...........................................................................................................................9
Chapter II......................................................................................................................................10
Literature Review.........................................................................................................................10
Theoretical Background............................................................................................................11
Early theories........................................................................................................................12

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Life-course theory.................................................................................................................15
Masculinization and emancipation........................................................................................16
Power-control.......................................................................................................................17
General strain theory.............................................................................................................18
The feminist approach..........................................................................................................20
Gendered pathways...................................................................................................................22
Gender Disparity in System Processing....................................................................................26
Mental Health Disorders and Delinquency...............................................................................30
Gender Disparity in Mental Health Disorders...........................................................................34
Mental Health Disorders and Disparate System Response........................................................37
Disparate Treatment for Female Offenders with Mental Health Disorders...............................43
Summary..................................................................................................................................45
Chapter III....................................................................................................................................47
Method.........................................................................................................................................47
Overview of Study Design........................................................................................................47
Sample Determination..............................................................................................................48
Measures...................................................................................................................................49
Predictor variables................................................................................................................49
Offense seriousness...............................................................................................................50
Mental health need................................................................................................................52
Outcome measures................................................................................................................57

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Control measures..................................................................................................................58
Analyses...............................................................................................................................60
Chapter IV....................................................................................................................................63
Analysis and Results.....................................................................................................................63
Descriptive Analysis of Sample................................................................................................63
Descriptive Analysis of History Variables.................................................................................65
Descriptive Analysis of Disposition and Placement Variables from Sample Period..................66
Bivariate Tests for H1................................................................................................................68
Multivariate Tests for H1...........................................................................................................72
Facility Composite................................................................................................................73
Detention..............................................................................................................................74
Non-secure............................................................................................................................75
Secure...................................................................................................................................76
TYC Commitment................................................................................................................77
Test for Multicollinearity......................................................................................................78
Descriptive Analysis of Mental Health Need Variables............................................................79
Bivariate Tests for H2................................................................................................................83
Multivariate Tests for H2...........................................................................................................88
Maysi – 2..............................................................................................................................88
Assessment...........................................................................................................................89
Multivariate Tests for H3...........................................................................................................90

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Maysi-2.................................................................................................................................91
Assessment...........................................................................................................................98
Test for Multicollinearity....................................................................................................105
Chapter V....................................................................................................................................108
Discussion..................................................................................................................................108
Summary.................................................................................................................................108
Results of Hypothesis Testing.................................................................................................115
Limitations..............................................................................................................................117
Implications and Conclusion...................................................................................................118
References..................................................................................................................................121
Curriculum Vita..........................................................................................................................152

List of Tables
Table 1 Demographic distribution ....................................................................................64
Table 2 Percent of offenses resulting in most severe disposition.......................................65
Table 3 Offense and referral history by gender.................................................................66
Table 4 Percent of most severe dispositions by gender......................................................67
Table 5 Percent county based out-of-home placements by gender ...................................68
Table 6 Crosstab comparison of out-of-home placement by gender ................................68
Table 7 Crosstab analysis of offense categories by gender...............................................69
Table 8 Crosstab analysis of offense categories for placement type.................................70
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Table 9 Crosstab analysis of offense composites for placement type................................72
Table 10 Analysis of predictor variables regressed on facility composite.........................73
Table 11 Analysis of predictor variables regressed on detention......................................75
Table 12 Analysis of predictor variables regressed on non-secure placement..................76
Table 13 Analysis of predictor variables regressed on secure placement.........................77
Table 14 Analysis of predictor variables regressed on TYC commitment.........................78
Table 15 Inter-correlation matrix for out-of-home placement ..........................................79
Table 16 Percent of MAYSI-2 cutoff scores by subscale ...................................................80
Table 17 MAYSI -2 scores meeting cutoff criteria by........................................................80
Table 18 Percent of reported Traumatic Experiences........................................................81
Table 19 Percent external and internal diagnoses............................................................81
Table 20 Gender distribution of mental health diagnoses ................................................82
Table 21 Percent co-occurring disorders by diagnostic categories..................................82
Table 22 Co-occurring disorders by mental health diagnoses..........................................83
Table 23 Mean warnings across Maysi-2 subscales by placement ...................................84
Table 24 Percentage of traumatic experiences reported on the Maysi-2 by placement type.
...........................................................................................................................................85
Table 25 Mean number of traumatic experiences reported on the Maysi-2 by placement
type ....................................................................................................................................86
Table 26 Percent assessed with at least one diagnosis and no diagnosis by placement
type ....................................................................................................................................87
Table 27 Mean number of diagnoses for juveniles assessed by placement type and offense
level ...................................................................................................................................88
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Table 28 Analysis of predictor variables regressed on facility composite for Maysi-2.....89
Table 29 Analysis of predictor variables regressed on facility composite for Assessment.
...........................................................................................................................................90
Table 30 Analysis of predictor variables regressed on facility composite for Maysi-2.....92
Table 31 Analysis of predictor variables regressed on detention for Maysi-2 and gender.
...........................................................................................................................................93
Table 32 Analysis of predictor variables regressed on non-secure for Maysi-2................94
Table 33 Analysis of predictor variables regressed on secure for Maysi-2 and gender....96
Table 34 Analysis of predictor variables regressed on TYC for Maysi-2 and gender.......98
Table 35 Analysis of predictor variables regressed on facility composite for Assessment
and gender..........................................................................................................................99
Table 36 Analysis of predictor variables regressed on detention for Assessment...........100
Table 37 Analysis of predictor variables regressed on non-secure placement for
Assessment.......................................................................................................................101
Table 38 Analysis of predictor variables regressed on secure placement for Assessment.
.........................................................................................................................................103
Table 39 Analysis of predictor variables regressed on TYC commitment for Assessment.
.........................................................................................................................................104
Table 40 Inter-correlation matrix for out-of-home placement for female and male
juveniles mental health need as captured on the Maysi-2...............................................106
Table 41 Inter-correlation matrix for out-of-home placement juveniles mental health
needs as captured with a mental health assessment........................................................107

11

Chapter I
The belief that girls' involvement with the juvenile justice system is increasing
has recently garnered increased attention in both academia and popular culture (Acoca,
1998; Fox & Levin, 2000; Morse, 2002; Ness, 2004; Poe-Yamagata & Butts, 1990). At
the turn of the century there was a two-decade low rate in overall juvenile violent crime,
however, official statistics indicated a trend toward increased activity in female juvenile
12

delinquency, especially for offenses involving assaultive behavior. The Office of Juvenile
Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) conducted a study during the period of 1989
to 1993 that reported the number of arrests involving female juveniles increased by 23%,
while the rate for juvenile males increased by only 11% (Poe-Yamagata & Butts, 1996).
In 1998, the OJJDP reported property arrests for female juveniles increased by 21%,
while those arrests for male juveniles had actually declined by 4% (Office of Juvenile
Justice Delinquency Prevention, 1998). Recently, the Federal Bureau of Investigation
reported that although the overall rate of juvenile arrests decreased from 1994 to 2006,
especially for violent crime, arrests for aggravated assaults decreased more for boys (24
%) than for girls (10%). In addition, arrests for simple assault declined by 4% for boys,
whereas the rate for girls increased by 19% (Snyder, 2008).
Recently, studies of female juvenile delinquency have begun to show that
simultaneous with the increase in arrests in official statistics, changes in statute and law
enforcement policies have resulted in a potential net-widening of female arrests (Bishop
& Frazier, 1992; Chesney-Lind, 2002; Steffensmeier, Schwartz, Zhong & Ackerman,
2005). Evaluating violent offending data gathered from victimization and self-report
surveys, Steffensmeier et al. (2005) found that contrary to official arrest records, selfreport data indicate that there has been "little overall change in girls’ levels of violence
over the past one to two decades” (Steffensmeier et al., 2005, p. 395). These findings
have caused some to expand the dialogue related to female juvenile delinquency to
include the argument that the use of violations of court orders and changes to the
13

definition of domestic violence has resulted in the relabeling of girls’ arguments or fights
in their homes from status offenses to the delinquent act of assault, and thereby
“bootstrapping” girls formally into the juvenile justice system (Bartollas, 1993; Bishop &
Frazier, 1992; Chesney-Lind, 2002; Steffensmeier et al., 2005).
Although female offending has garnered increased attention in the literature, a
limited amount of research exists on the role of gender in post-adjudication disposition
decisions. The prevailing belief among juvenile justice practitioners has been that girls
are "harder to work with" because they enter the juvenile justice system with more
serious and multifaceted problems than their male counterparts (Bains & Alder, 1996).
This notion has led researchers such as MacDonald and Chesney-Lind (2001) to examine
potential gender bias in the handling of juvenile court cases. Their research indicated that
for youth entering the disposition stage of the juvenile justice process, the impact of
charge seriousness was not equal across gender (MacDonald & Chesney-Lind, 2001).
Studies conducted on pre-adjudication detention decisions indicated that the juvenile
justice system process also differed significantly by gender. From 1990 to 1999 there was
a 50% increase in the number of female delinquency cases entering detention centers in
the United States compared with only a 4% increase for male juvenile delinquency cases
(Sherman, 2005). In 2001, although girls comprised only 19% of detained youth, they
were almost twice as likely as boys to be detained for technical violations and status
offenses (Sickmund, Sladly, & Kang, 2004). In 2004, national statistics indicated
technical violations and status offenses accounted for 41% of detentions for female
14

juvenile offenders and 25% for their male peers (Sickmund et al., 2004). Therefore,
female juvenile offenders are more likely to be detained for status offenses, technical
violations (such as violations of probation or court orders), and orders to apprehend. This
indicates that not only is the rate of female juvenile offending increasing, but also that the
systemic response to female delinquency has escalated to incarcerating girls for lesser
offenses than their male counterparts.
Youth with mental health needs in the juvenile justice system have also
experienced increased attention. In 2000, the Coalition for Juvenile Justice published a
report indicating 20% of all youth in the general population youth have a mental health
need, with up to 13% of those youth having a serious disorder (Hubner & Wofson, 2000).
However, a much higher prevalence for youth involved with the juvenile justice system
has been established, ranging from 50% to 75% with approximately 25% having a serious
disorder (Cocozza & Skowyra, 2000; Shufelt & Cocozza, 2006; Skowyra & Powell,
2006; Teplin, Abram, McClelland, Dulcan, & Mericle, 2002; Wasserman, McReynolds,
Lucas, Fisher, & Santos 2002).
Studies have indicated a correlation between female juvenile offending and
mental health diagnosis. Copeland et al. (2007) found that almost 21% of female crime
could be attributed to the symptoms of a mental health disorder or multiple disorders,
compared to only 15% for males (Copeland, Miller-Johnson, Keeler, Angold, & Costello,
2007). Others have indicated that the existence of anxiety and depressive disorders are
strong indicators of violent offending among female offenders, and that females have
15

higher rates of anxiety disorders than their male counterparts (Atkins et al., 1999;
Copeland et al., 2007; Wasserman , McReynolds, Ko, Katz, & Carpenter, 2007).
Subsequently, researchers have begun to hypothesize that internalizing psychiatric
disorders such as depression influence girl's propensity toward antisocial behavior
(Kovacs, 1996; Renouf & Harter, 1990), and influence the subsequent response from the
system. The effect of psychiatric disorder is further complicated with a higher rate of cooccurring or co-morbid disorders among female juvenile offenders (Dembo, Williams, &
Schmeidler, 1993; Kataoka, 2001; Randall, Henggeler, Pickrel, & Brondino, 1999; Ulzen,
Psych, & Hamilton, 1998).
Juvenile offenders with mental health needs enter a justice system that is often ill
equipped to appropriately handle the multiple diagnoses and multi-systemic issues facing
this population. For instance, literature indicates that antisocial behaviors include
everything from serious acts of delinquency such as drug abuse, burglary, vandalism, and
assault to minor status offenses such as truancy and runaway (Henggler, Schoenwald,
Borduin,Rowland, & Cunningham, 1998). Consequently, there is an overlap in the antisocial behaviors of delinquent youth engaged with mental health treatment systems and
conduct-disordered youth involved in the juvenile justice system. This has caused some
authors to conclude that the same type of youth appear in both mental health and juvenile
justice systems (Atkins et al., 1999; Cocozza & Skowyra, 2000; Teplin et al., 2002;
Wasserman et al., 2002).

16

Offenders with diagnosed mental health disorders often have a difficult time
navigating the justice system. Specifically, they are at an increased risk of having formal
treatment conditions imposed on them as a condition of their involvement in the system
(Monahan et al., 2005). It is not uncommon for judges to add conditions to
probation that require compliance with medication, therapy, or other
behavioral programs (Draine & Solomon, 2001; Solomon, Rogers,
Draine, & Meyerson, 1995). Enforcing and monitoring compliance with
treatment is viewed as a probation officer’s primary assignment in
supervising offenders with mental disorders. Draine and Solomon (2001)
discovered that probation officers supervising offenders with mental health needs in the
community threatened two-thirds of those offenders with incarceration for
noncompliance with mandated treatment. This allows officers to use technical
violations to incarcerate juvenile offenders with mental health needs
for behaviors that, by themselves, would not be illegal for the general
population. The result is that juvenile offenders with mental health disorders are
more likely to be placed in a residential setting than those without a mental health
disorder, indicating that the systemic response to the unique needs of the offender with
mental health needs is often incarceration (Dauphinot, 1996; Pourpino, & Motiuk, 1995).
Purpose of the Study
Findings vary regarding the effects of gender and juvenile justice system
involvement and processing (Belknap 2001; Chesney-Lind & Shelden, 1998) with some
17

studies indicating females receive more severe sanctions than their male counterparts
specifically for status offenses (Bishop & Frazier, 1992; Chesney-Lind, 1977, 1988;
Odem, 1995; Shelden & Horvath, 1986), and others indicating that male juvenile
offenders receive more severe outcomes, particularly for delinquent behavior (Bishop &
Frazier, 1992; Farrington & Morris, 1983; Johnson & Scheuble, 1991). This study will
examine the role that gender and psychiatric disorder play in juvenile justice system
processing. Five hypotheses will be tested ; each is based on the academic literature
concerning the topic.
First, this study will extend the findings in Espinosa, Belshaw, and Osho (2007)
by addressing some of the limitations in that study. Evaluating the role of gender in
juvenile justice system processing, the authors found that gender had no role in post
adjudication disposition decisions resulting in out-of-home placement. Rather, the authors
reported that level of offense provided the strongest predictor for disposition decisions
resulting in out-of-home placement. One of the limitations in that study is the offense
category the authors coded as Violation of Probation (VOP). The previous study did not
account for the fact that some VOPs may have originated as a Status, Class C or
Contempt of Court Offense. The juvenile may have received a VOP as a result of a status
offense rather than as a result of a delinquent act. Therefore, gender may indeed influence
juvenile justice system processing. By evaluating the extent that a violation of a court
order or probation results in a disposition decision of out-of-home placement, this study

18

will provide a clearer framework for the analysis of the unique characteristics of gender
differences in behavior and juvenile justice system involvement.
The second limitation of the previous study is that it did not include an analysis of
the extralegal variables that influence disposition decision making such as mental health
disorders. Female juvenile offenders tend to have a lower prevalence of conduct and
oppositional defiant disorders than male juvenile offenders (Loeber, Burke, Lahey,
Winters, & Zera, 2000). However, in regard to behavior, adolescent girls with conduct
disorders are more at risk than adolescent males for depression, anxiety, and suicidal
behavior (Loeber et al., 2000). More specifically, studies have indicated that offenders
with mental health disorders are more likely to be removed from the home due to
violations than offenders without a mental health disorder (Monahan et al., 2005;
Draine & Solomon, 2001). Evaluating the extent that psychiatric disorder
influences disposition decisions will provide a more comprehensive analysis of the
unique characteristics of gender differences in behavior and juvenile justice system
involvement.
H1: Female juvenile offenders are ordered to out-of-home placement more often
than males for lower level offenses.
Approximately 20% of youth in the general population are estimated to have a
psychiatric diagnosis or documented mental health need (Hubner & Wofson, 2000).
However, a much higher rate ranging from 50% to 80% of youth within the juvenile
justice system is estimated to have a psychiatric diagnosis or mental health need
19

(Cocozza & Skowyra, 2000; Teplin, Abram, & McClelland, 1998). Studies indicate a
disproportionate number of youth with mental health needs in detention and residential
settings (Atkins et al., 1999), and they are typically detained or incarcerated pending
treatment (United States House of Representatives [USHR], 2004). This test will focus on
the role of mental health need on disposition decisions resulting in removal from the
home while controlling for the effect of gender.
H2: Juvenile offenders with mental health needs are ordered to out-of-home
placement more often than juvenile offenders without mental health needs with
similar offenses.
Gender is one of the most consistent correlates of delinquent behavior (Belknap &
Holsinger, 2006; Naffine, 1987; Smart, 1976; Steffensmeier & Allan, 1996). Mirroring
the results of studies on race and juvenile justice decision making, findings have been
inconsistent regarding the effects of gender on case processing (Belknap 2001; ChesneyLind & Sheldon, 1998), with some indicating that it is more harsh on girls than boys
(Bishop & Frazier, 1992; Bishop & Frazier, 1996; Chesney-Lind, 1977, 1988; Odem,
1995; Shelden and Horvath, 1986) while others indicate no difference based on gender
(Dannefer & Schutt, 1982; Kempf-Leonard & Sontheimer, 1995). However, the literature
has shown that offenders with mental health needs are disproportionately represented in
the justice system and that they tend to be incarcerated as a result of failed treatment. In
addition, girls involved in the juvenile justice system have been found to have higher
rates of mental health needs than their male counterparts. This evaluation will provide a
20

targeted analysis of the influence of mental health need on the pathway to out-of-home
placement for female juvenile offenders. The final test in this study will examine the
difference in disposition decisions resulting in out-of-home placement between males and
females with psychiatric disorders.
H3: Female juvenile offenders with mental health needs are ordered to out-ofhome placement at a higher rate for lesser offenses than male juvenile offenders
with similar mental health need.
Current Study
Objectives.
There were three objectives for this study. First, it was designed to determine the
extent to which juvenile justice system processing was influenced by gender, specifically
related to disposition decisions resulting in out-of-home placement. Second, it was
designed to evaluate the influence of psychiatric disorders in juvenile justice system
processing in a two-pronged approach. The first prong included an analysis of the
influence of gender on access to mental health assessment based upon the result of mental
health screening. The second prong was designed to evaluate the influence of mental
health need or psychiatric disorder in disposition decisions resulting in out-of-home
residential placement or incarceration. The final objective was to evaluate the influence
of gender controlling for psychiatric disorder on disposition decisions resulting in
removal from the juvenile's home.
Organization.
21

This study was divided into five distinct chapters. This chapter provides a basic
introduction to the differential impact of gender and mental health need on disposition
decisions. The problem identified for evaluation suggested that female offenders, especially
those with diagnosed mental health disorders, were ordered to residential placement or
incarcerated for lesser offenses than male juvenile offenders. Chapter two provides a review
of the relevant literature and systematic outline of the problem being examined. Chapter three
offers the methodology for the study including the data to be examined, sampling procedures,
measures, and statistical analyses to be performed.

Chapter II
Literature Review
Adolescence is traditionally understood to consist of a period of developmental
transition between childhood and adulthood. It is characterized by changes in family,
school, peers, self-concept, and general physical development (Bergman & Scott, 2001;
22

Steinberg & Morris, 2001). Although most youth successfully navigate this
developmental period with no serious difficulty, incidents of behavioral and mental health
problems typically increase during this period of development, each along gender
differentiated lines (Compas, Hinden, & Gerhardt, 1995; Steinberg & Morris, 2001).
While both boys and girls engage in law-violating and delinquent activities that tend to
peak during early adolescence, girls engage in fewer of these behaviors than their male
counterparts (Canter, 1982; Steffensmeier & Allan, 1996; Steffensmeier, Zhong,
Ackerman, Schwartz & Agha, 2006). On the other hand, female juvenile offenders
exhibit significantly more recognizable episodes of depression, suicide attempts, and
more complex mental health needs than their male counterparts (Culbertson, 1997;
Grunbaum, et al., 2003; Rosenfield, Lennon, & White, 2005; Teplin et. al, 2002;
Wasserman, & McReynolds, 2006).
Researchers agree that gender-related differences tend to be among the most
consistent patterns in both delinquent behavior and psychiatric disorders. The literature
suggests that these gender differences first emerge early in child development and
become more pervasive in adolescence (Avison & McAlpine, 1992; Gore, Aseltine, &
Colten, 1992; Kessler & Zhao, 1999; Turner & Lloyd 1995). Some studies indicate that
the gender gap in delinquent behavior is due to gender differences in socialization
(Bottcher, 2001; Heimer & De Coster, 1999; Messerschmidt, 1986; Simpson & Elis,
1995) or tied to the offender's status in a gender stratified society (Chesney-Lind, 1989;
Daly & Chesney-Lind, 1988; Messerschmidt, 1986). However, similarities among
23

criminological and psychological literature emerge when evaluating the gender
differences between mental health needs and delinquency. Consensus among previous
studies indicated that females primarily experience internalizing symptoms that turn
problematic feelings inward (Avison & McAlpine, 1992; Rosenfield, Lennon, & White,
2005). The psychiatric disorders commonly associated with internalizing behaviors
include depression, bi-polar, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and other mood disorders
(Compton, Burns, Egger, & Robertson, 2002; Kazdin, 2005). Males predominately
experience externalizing behaviors which are problematic for other people and results in
potential psychiatric diagnosis such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, oppositional
defiant disorder, and conduct disorder.

This chapter provides an overview of the existing theories that attempt to provide
an explanation of female juvenile delinquency. It describes findings from studies that
evaluate trends in both juvenile female offending and the prevalence of offenders with
mental health needs. Finally, it ties the existing literature into the pathway a female
juvenile offender takes to and through the juvenile justice system.
Theoretical Background
Traditional criminological theories have either ignored female offending or
evaluated the phenomenon from a view based in the stereotypical concept of the
biological inferiority of women and their sex role socialization or sexual promiscuity
(Cohen, 1955; Naffine, 1985; Pollak, 1950). Due to the small numbers of female
offenders, early studies in criminology such as Shaw and McKay's study of concentric
zones in the 1930s simply did not include girls or women in the samples. Females were
24

given very limited consideration in most of the subsequent criminological theories
developed during the 20th century (Cloward & Ohlin, 1960; Cohen, 1955; Hirschi, 1969;
Sutherland, 1947). Essentially, female delinquency was viewed as being unimaginative
and dull compared to the activities engaged in by the male delinquent (Naffine, 1987).
Sociological theories of delinquency, including ecological, differential
association, control, strain, labeling, and Marxist/critical theories, have attempted to
account for the effects of political systems, neighborhoods, social class, learning, and
economic systems on the delinquent acts of the juvenile offender. These theories have
generally failed to consider the specific nature of the female offender in relation to the
theory’s interpretation of the contributors to female juvenile offending. Subcultural
(Cohen, 1955), strain (Cloward & Ohlin, 1960), control theory (Hirschi, 1969; Reckless,
Dinitz, & Murray, 1956, 1957) and differential association (Sutherland & Cressey, 1978)
were all developed with virtually exclusive reference to males because most empirical
research has been conducted with samples predominately comprised of male adolescents
(Chesney-Lind, 1989). This has resulted in limited insight into the theoretical
explanations for female juvenile delinquency (Bloom, & Owen, 1998; Steffensmeier et
al., 2005).
Early theories.
In the early 1900s, women were primarily perceived as sexual objects and
expected to remain within male dominated social settings serving in roles such as
nurturer, caretaker, and homemaker, often secondary to the men involved in their lives
25

(Oakley, 1985). Early theories assumed that female delinquency was abnormal and
extremely rare. They focused most of their explanations on the deviation of delinquent
females from stereotypical femininity and the often presumed concept that women's
psychological functioning was related to their sexuality and biology (Koneke, 1966;
Lombroso & Ferraro, 1900).
Early criminologists focused almost exclusively on the female anatomy as the
cause of juvenile female offending. Lombroso developed a theory of criminology based
on the concepts of Social Darwinism and the belief that all individuals displaying
antisocial or delinquent behavior were biological throwbacks (Lombroso-Ferraro, 2004).
The born female criminal was perceived to have the criminal qualities of the male plus
the worst characteristics of women. To address the fact that fewer women became
involved with the criminal justice system, Lombroso hypothesized that men were less
likely to breed with the delinquent, physically deformed women. Therefore, natural
selection explained the existence of a greater number of male than female born criminals
(Lombroso & Ferraro, 1900). Basically, the less attractive women were more likely to
commit criminal acts; however, due to their undesirability, they had fewer chances to
transmit those delinquent genes to their offspring.
Expanding beyond the physical aspects of the offender population, psychological
theories of crime were developed in an attempt to explain individual differences in
behaviors that contributed to delinquency. Early psychoanalytic theory, as developed by
Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), argued that the improperly socialized child may develop a
26

personality disturbance that caused her or him to direct antisocial impulses inward or
outward (Freud, 1961). The child who directed them outward became a criminal, while
the child who directed them inward became neurotic. Specific to female offenders, Freud
hypothesized that the concept of penis envy resulted in females engaging in delinquent
activity. Freud hypothesized that women become neurotic in their quest to be more
masculine and turn to crime as a way to deny their feminine side. Freud indicated that if
women valued their proper place in society as wives and as mothers they would not see
themselves as incomplete and turn to crime (Freud, 1961).
Sociological theorists such as Pollak (1950), Thomas (1967) and Reckless
(1957) believed that criminality was pathological and driven by social interactions, rather
than being determined by biological or psychological characteristics. For instance,
Thomas (1967, p.68) says, "the girl as a child does not know she has any particular value
until she learns it from others." Pollak (1950) indicated that the behavior learned by girls
at a very young age led them into a masked or hidden form of female criminality. He
contended that within the male-dominated society, women have always been viewed as
secretive and dangerous. More specifically, Pollak (1950) speculated that precocious
biological maturity was the largest contributor to female sexual delinquency. In sexual
intercourse, the role of the male was to be active while the role of the female was passive.
This passiveness in women contributes to their ability to be deceitful, and thus female
delinquency is masked by the chivalrous treatment of the criminal justice system.

27

Reckless (1957), however, believed the hidden nature of female delinquency was due to
their restricted roles in society.
In the 1960s, studies focused primarily on the prevalence of vague status offenses
such as incorrigibility, or the simple need for care and protection, as the factors that
distinguish between male and female delinquency (Cowie, Cowie, & Slater, 1968;
Konopka, 1966; Vedder & Sommerville, 1970). Researchers suggested that female
adolescents were more concerned with finding a boyfriend and having friends than with
problems like blocked economic or capitalistic opportunities (Belknap, 2006).
Consequently, female delinquency acquired a stigma founded in the assumption that
female offending was sexual in nature (Hoyt & Scherer, 1998). Female adolescents were
arrested for acts considered immoral such as waywardness, underage drinking, truancy,
and running away because society expressed concern over the sexual behavior or moral
deprivation of female delinquents, while males who engaged in the same behavior were
typically not arrested (Chesney-Lind, 1973; Shelden, 1981). Some concluded that this
disparate processing of low-level offenses by gender created a sexual double standard in
the juvenile justice system (Chesney-Lind, 1977).
Life-course theory.
Life-course theorists have expanded on some of the initial assumptions proposed
by early biological theorists. Haynie (2003) examined the relationship between girls’
pubertal development and their delinquency involvement and reported that puberty
affects girls’ delinquency through parent and peer relationships. He noted that this was
28

especially apparent in relation to activities that society predominately relates to adult
behavior such as smoking, drinking, and sexual relations (Haynie, 2003). Moffit
proposed two qualitatively different categories of delinquent offenders with her lifecourse persistent and adolescence-limited typology. Moffit’s adolescent-limited theory of
delinquency postulated that puberty leads to biological maturity much earlier than society
allows social maturity. Some argue that the difference between biology’s physical signals
of adulthood and society’s acceptance of adult status creates a disjuncture for adolescents
which results in female adolescent delinquency (Moffit, Rutter, & Silva, 2001).
Subsequently, females stop offending when they enter legitimate adult roles.
Masculinization and emancipation.
Some criminologists have indicated that the increase in arrests for females is a
result of the women’s movement. For instance, Adler (1975) and Simon (1975) assumed
that female delinquency had been curtailed by the limited aspiration and opportunity of
women. They proposed the idea that social not biological circumstances defined the
gender differences in delinquent behavior. Adler initiated dialog around women’s crime
rates and their changing social position in 1975 when she argued that the women’s
movement had changed the attitudes toward a general acceptance of the masculinzation
of female behavior (Adler, 1975). With her masculinization hypothesis, Adler attributed
the rise in female crime during the 1960s and 1970s to an increasing number of females
adopting what were traditionally considered male roles, and thus increasingly
masculinizing their attitudes and behavior. Adler postulated that the involvement of
29

women in violent crime would increase as women modify their behavior to be more like
men.
Rita Simon (1975) expanded on this line of thought with her emancipation
hypothesis. Simon postulated that the increased participation in the workforce afforded
women greater opportunities to engage in criminal activity. Women were becoming
socially and culturally more like men by competing and fighting as aggressively as men
to advance their careers and establish themselves in society. Simon viewed the increasing
involvement of women in crime as a consequence of social masculinzation and a cost of
emancipation. Specifically, Simon hypothesized that women would engage in increased
property crime as they now have access to greater opportunities.
Studies generally fail to lend empirical support to the theories of Adler and
Simon. Two studies conducted in the 1970s (Cernkovich & Giordano, 1979; Datesman,
Scarpitti, & Stephenson, 1975) indicated that female juvenile delinquents were found to
regard their opportunities to achieve success less positively than non-delinquent females,
and the general perception of blocked opportunities was predictive of future delinquent
activity. In addition, masculinization of the sex role has not been determined to be
correlated with an increase in female offending (Norland, Wessel, & Shover, 1981;
Shover et al., 1979; Thornton & James, 1979). Females with more-masculine traits have
been reported as being less involved in delinquency than females with more traditional
traits. Austin (1982) tested the association between liberated attitudes among females and
involvement in delinquent behavior and found the hypothesized association to be
30

virtually non-existent. Similarly, Figueria-McDonough (1981) found that females with
more traditional gender attitudes tended to be more delinquent than those with liberated
attitudes.
Power-control.
Some theorists such as Rosenfield (1999) and Heimer and DeCoster (1999) have
focused on the levels of social control exhibited by parents on males and females as the
determining factor for delinquent activity. Hagan (1991) hypothesized that the
socialization process for female adolescents varied based on the power structure of
parental relationships within the home. Hagan's power-control theory posits that boys
exhibit more independence and risk-taking behavior in part because parents supervise
their activities less closely (Hagan, Gillis, & Simpson, 1985; Hagan, 1991; Hagan,
McCarthy, & Foster, 2002). Hagan's theory suggested that gender relations in society
produce either a patriarchal or egalitarian family structure, each with different
consequences for female crime. Hagan speculated that the patriarchal family more closely
controls female behavior, so that female juvenile offenders commit less delinquent acts.
The core assumption is that the mother working outside the home causes the daughter to
find herself in a more egalitarian family structure, which results in less supervision in the
home (Hagan et al., 1985), and is therefore more likely to engage in delinquent activity.
However, Morash and Chesney-Lind’s (1991) test of power-control theory found that
gender differences in delinquency appeared regardless of the patriarchal or egalitarian
family structure.
31

General strain theory.
Recently, Agnew's (1992, 2001, 2006) approach toward integrating literature on
aggression, stress, and delinquency in his revised social-psychological general strain theory
has gained momentum as a strong theoretical explanation for delinquent activity. Departing
from the traditional versions of strain theory, general strain theory integrated the introduction
of negative stimuli and the removal of positively valued stimuli with the strain of blocked
goals as the catalyst for delinquent activity (Agnew, 1992). General strain theory assumes
that crime and deviance are the result of frustration in a situation where opportunities and/ or
emotions are blocked. Basically, revised strain theory centers on the premise that stressful
events in the neighborhood or in the family led to delinquency, especially if resources for
coping with that strain such as parent and peer support are non-existent (Hoffman & Su,
1997; Mazerolle, 1998). Specifically, with general strain theory, Agnew (1992) postulated

that the strain of child abuse and neglect and physical victimization results in delinquent
behavior (Agnew et al., 2002; Agnew, 2006, Hay & Evans, 2006). Initially, Agnew
(2002) found some empirical support when he studied a sample of high school boys and
found that violent victimization of family and friends was associated with aggressive
delinquency. This new twist to traditional strain theory led some such as Funk (1999) to
contend that Agnew’s general strain theory provides the best explanation for female
delinquency. For instance, females adolescents arrested for running away typically state that
escaping family violence and abuse were their reason for leaving home (Koroki & ChesneyLind, 1985; McCormack, Janus, & Burgess,1986). Adding to that rationale, running away

32

leads female adolescents to engage in a variety of delinquent activities, including prostitution,
as a form of survival (McCormick et al, 1986).

However, the empirical data evaluating general strain theory as an explanation for
female delinquency does not account for the different factors that contribute to female
and male juvenile offending. For instance, although studies conducted by Hoffman and
Su (1997) and later Mazerolle (1998) indicated that the influence of strain on delinquent
activity were similar for both male and female respondents, Mazerolle found that
negative life events such as trauma, family structure and abuse predicted violent
offending for male juvenile offenders but not for their female counterparts. While
investigating the impact of interpersonal or psychosocial influence of strain by gender
and the impact on delinquent activity, Agnew and Brezina (1997) found that there was a
stronger correlation for males than females. This finding directly contradicted previous
research focusing on interpersonal strain for females (Gilligan, 1982; Turner, Wheaton, &
Lloyd, 1995; Turner & Turner, 1999) which had indicated that interpersonal strain
resulted in female offending. More recently, in her test of general strain theory, Katz
(2000) found that the theory explained male delinquency better than female. These
findings suggest that general strain theory has failed the empirical test of explaining the
causes and correlations of female juvenile offending.
The feminist approach.
The increase in feminist scholarship, as well as the increase in the number of
female professionals in criminal justice since the late 1960s and 1970s, has resulted in
pressure to examine the processing and treatment of delinquent girls (Belknap, 2001;
33

Chesney-Lind, 1988; Chesney-Lind & Shelden, 1998). Heidensohn (1968) and Bertrand
(1969) initiated the conversation regarding the absence of female offending in existing
theories of crime and delinquency. Reckless (1961) encouraged criminologists to discard
existing theories because of their "inapplicability to women" (p. 78). These observations
led feminist scholars to conclude that the problem with existing theories included two
important aspects. First, the core of criminological theory was based in a class, race and
age based structure that essentially ignored the role of gender; and second, it was not
known whether general theories could even be applied to female offending (Daly &
Chesney-Lind, 1988).
Early feminist critiques of criminological theory were based in the analysis of
how crime had been explained and described (Daly & Chesney-Lind, 1988). They
indicated that female delinquency was more often described as being influenced by
biological factors than by social or economic variables, and most indicated that female
offending was rooted primarily in sexual deviance (Heidensohn, 1986; Carlen & Worrall,
1987; Millman, 1975; Morris, 1987). Chesney-Lind (1973) suggested that female
juvenile delinquency was sexualized, and that non-criminal offenses (status offenses)
contributed to the largest portion of female offending.
Feminist theory identified a key problem with the applicability of traditional
theory to females – youth can be incarcerated for both delinquent acts and status offenses
(Chesney-Lind, 1989). Feminist theory notes that the majority of studies regarding
juvenile delinquency have focused solely on delinquent acts. Therefore, the lack of
34

evaluation of the status offender and delinquency results in the belief that “there is
considerable question as to whether existing theories that were admittedly developed to
explain male delinquency can adequately explain female delinquency” (Chesney-Lind,
1989, p. 10). The feminist approach to delinquency is typically identified as a
“construction of explanations of female behavior that are sensitive to its patriarchical
context” with specific focus on the social control of the legal system order that serves to
reinforce a woman’s place in a male dominated society”. (Chesney-Lind, 1989, p. 19).
This has lead several theorists such as Daly and Chesney-Lind (1988) and
Steffensmeier and Allan (1996) to advance a gendered paradigm of female offending.
This paradigm relies on existing theory and research, while noting that female offending
is different in context and complexity than that of males. Steffensmeier and Allan (1996)
argue that the principle shortcoming of gender neutral theories of crime is “they are not
very informative about the specific ways in which differences in the lives of men and
women contribute to gender differences” in delinquency (p. 473). Contemporary feminist
theories have responded by suggesting that the focus on gender and delinquency should
extend beyond simply adding another variable to the research model in an attempt to
study female crime and delinquency; rather, the entire model should be structured
differently by gender. Steffensmeier and Allan (1996) suggested that feminist theory,
when informed by data regarding sexual victimization, may offer an area to the study of
female crime and delinquency. According to this perspective, victimization acts as a
trigger for delinquent behavior by females, often resulting in the female running away
35

and turning to drugs (Bishop-Frazier, 1992). Thus, behaviors such as runaway, truancy,
and drug use are often viewed as “survival” skills that result in the girl’s involvement in
the juvenile justice system.
Gendered pathways
Studies have indicated that girls experience a different pathway toward and
through the juvenile justice system than their male counterparts. Boys develop their selfconcepts and identities in relation to the world, while girls and young women develop
their self-concepts and identities in relation to their interactions with others (Gilligan &
Brown, 1992). Gilligan and Brown argue that female moral development is based on a
personal view and commitment to others. Therefore, attachment, interdependence and
connectedness are critical to the foundation of their identity.
Although female offenders occasionally engage in conduct more stereotypical of
males such as aggression and assaultive behavior (Caufman, Feldman, Waterman &
Steiner, 1998), more often they suppress their aggression and struggle with the difficulty
of managing their emotions, especially those associated with depression and anxiety
(Ford, Chapman, Mack, & Pearson, 2006; McFadyen-Ketchum, Bates, Dodge & Petit,
1996). Delinquent girls have a higher risk of self-devaluation (Fagot & Leve, 1998),
suicidality (Wanna & Fombonne, 1998; Wasserman et al., 2005), and conflict with family
and school, including truancy, curfew violations, and runaway (Zocolllilo, Tremblay, &
Vitaro, 1996) than their male counterparts.

36

Studies have suggested that the daily life of justice involved girls is filled with
interpersonal conflict and chaos. Chamberlain and Moore (2002) found that 28% of the
girls they studied reported that they had a fight with a friend and almost 72% reported
that they had been involved in relational aggression within the previous 24 hours.
Conducted in 2003, the Survey of Youth in Residential Placement (SYRP) conducted on
a sample of over seven thousand incarcerated youth, found that females were almost
twice as likely to report prior physical abuse (42% of females versus 22% of males) and
that females reported higher rates (69% of females versus 40% of their male
counterparts) of the perpetrator of the physical abuse as being a sibling or mother (Sedlak
& McPherson, 2010). Several studies have found girls who reside in violent homes have
heightened risk factors for engaging in delinquent activity such as truancy, sexual
promiscuity, running away, and substance abuse (Osofsky, 1999; Thornberry, Huizinga,
& Loeber, 2004). Not surprisingly, female juveniles arrested for running away frequently
experience family violence (Koroki & Chesney-Lind, 1985; McCormack, Janus, &
Burgess, 1986; Rush, 1980) and emotional, physical, and sexual abuse (McCormack et.
al., 1986; Rhodes & Fischer, 1993; Silbert & Pines, 1981) as their primary motivation for
leaving home (Chesney-Lind & Shelden, 1998).
Although not all youth who experience trauma engage in delinquent activity,
studies of youth involved with the juvenile justice system have found rates of trauma
between 70% and 90% (McMackin, Morrissey, Newman, Erwin, & Daley, 1998; Rivera
& Widom, 1990; Steiner, Garcia, & Mathews, 1997). Steiner et al. (1997) found that
37

traumas experienced by boys and girls involved with the juvenile justice system were
different. Male offenders were more likely to have witnessed a violent event, while
females were more likely to have been the victim of violence. Compounding complexity
of responding to female delinquency further, females who have experienced trauma have
consistently been found to develop mental health problems as a result of that trauma more
often than their male counterparts with similar experiences (Cauffman et al., 1998;
Crimmins, Cleary, Brownsteing, Spunt & Warley, 2000; Giaconia et al., 1995). For
example, the Denver Youth Study discovered that one-third of the violent female
offenders evaluated displayed significant negative indicators within the domains of
academic performance, mental health, and victimization (Huizinga & Jakob-Chen, 1998).
Victimization has been indicated as a central factor for female offending (Browne,
Miller, &Maguin, 1999; Wood, Foy, Goguen, Pynoos, & James, 2002; Wood, Foy, Layne,
Pynoos, & Boyd, 2002). Sexual victimization is a common form of trauma experienced
among girls involved in the justice system and may be a contributing factor to the
complex mental health needs of this population of offenders. Although it has been
virtually absent from formal theories of female delinquency, some studies have examined
the correlation between sexual abuse and female juvenile delinquency (Hoyt &Scherer,
1998). Dembo et al., (1995) collected data from a sample of juvenile offenders entering a
reception center. They found that females had a higher rate of sexual abuse referrals than
their male counterparts. In the sample of youth surveyed , females reported a rate or prior
sexual abuse that was over 4 times higher than their male counterparts (35% versus 8%)
38

and reported higher rates of physical injuries as a result of sexual abuse over males
(Sedlak et al., 2010). Sherman (2005) conducted a study of chronically delinquent
female offenders and noted that the first sexual encounters occurred at an average age of
6.75 (Sherman, 2005). Highlighting the difference between the rates of sexual trauma
experienced by female and male offenders, the study found that only 3% of the male
compared to 77% of female offenders had a history of abuse. Since anxiety disorders
typically manifest as a result of trauma, it could be presumed that the stress of
victimization contributes to delinquent activity (Wasserman et al., 2005). Furthermore,
Goodkind, Ng, & Sarri (2006) found that girls involved in the juvenile justice system
who have experienced some form of sexual abuse had more negative mental health,
school, substance use, risky sexual behavior, and delinquency outcomes than those who
had not experienced this form of trauma.
Some researchers have argued that the criminalization of victimization has
resulted in pro-arrest policies for females which account for the increase in female
offending in official arrest records. Chesney-Lind (2002) argued that changing policies
regarding mandatory arrests for incidents of domestic violence have actually resulted in
girls being arrested for offenses that, previous to the policy changes, would have simply
been viewed as status offenses. For instance, after initiating mandatory arrests for
domestic violence calls, Prince William County in Maryland experienced an increase in
arrests for domestic violence among women, up from 12.9% in 1992 to 21% in 1996
(Smith, 1996). In 1994, Maryland's Female Population Task Force reviewed over 2,000
39

female juvenile records for youth referred to the Maryland juvenile justice system.
Evaluating cases of person-on-person offenses, the task force discovered that 97.9%
involved an assaultive activity. Further study revealed that half of those assaults occurred
within the family (Maryland Department of Juvenile Justice, 1995). Steffensmeier and
colleagues (2005) reported that the rise in female violent or assaultive offending was the
direct effect of "net-widening policy shifts" that had "escalated girls' arrest-proneness"
(Steffensmeir et al., 2005, p. 355). Simply put, girls are being arrested for behavior that
would not have warranted an arrest prior to the policy change. This relabeling of family
arguments among females and their parents has resulted in a form of “bootstrapping”
(defined p. 28) of female offenders, especially among African American youth, into the
system (Bartollas, 1993; Chesney-Lind, 2002).
Gender Disparity in System Processing
Studies of delinquency and the response of the juvenile justice system have
consistently found that both legal and extra-legal factors contribute to the detention and
dispositional outcomes of youth involved in juvenile offending. However, similar to the
results of studies on the impact of race and justice system processing, findings have been
inconsistent regarding the effects of gender on case outcomes in post adjudication
disposition decisions (Belknap 2001; Chesney-Lind & Shelden, 1998). Some studies have
found that girls were the recipients of more severe sanctions than their male counterparts,
especially regarding systemic responses to status offenses (Bishop & Frazier, 1992;
Chesney-Lind, 1977, 1988; Shelden & Horvath, 1986; Odem, 1995). Other studies
40

indicate that females receive more lenient outcomes for delinquent behavior than males
(Bishop & Frazier, 1996; Farrington & Morris, 1983; Johnson & Scheuble, 1991). Some
research has failed to find any differences in the handling of delinquency cases based on
gender (Dannefer & Schutt, 1982; Kempf-Leonard & Sontheimer, 1995). Others have
shown that female juveniles received both more severe and more lenient outcomes than
their male counterparts.
In their analysis of the petition, adjudication, and disposition stages of the juvenile
court processing, MacDonald & Chesney-Lind (2001) reported no difference between
boys and girls in the decision to petition an offense. However, during the adjudication
stage, “charge seriousness” was more important for girls than boys. During the
disposition stage, the reverse was discovered. Thus, when female juvenile offenders are
adjudicated delinquent, they were “more likely than boys to be given a restrictive
sanction for a less serious offense” (p.187).
Incarceration or detention of status offenders is against the law under the Juvenile
Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) of 1974. However, a change to the
JJDPA in 1980 provided the opportunity for status offenders, found in contempt of court
for violating a valid court order to be placed in secure detention facilities (Bishop &
Frazier, 1992). The amendment also indicated that contempt proceedings may be based
either on a commission of a subsequent status offense or a failure to comply with a prior
court order (Sherman, 2005). The 1980 amendment thereby indirectly nullified the Act’s
original intent of keeping status offenders out of detention, and instead widened the net
41

for incarcerating female juvenile offenders. Subsequently, studies focused on the preadjudication detention decisions related to status offenses have consistently reported that
female juvenile offenders were more likely than their male counterparts to be detained for
status offenses, technical violations and warrants (Sherman, 2005; Sickmund et al.,
2004).
By engaging in a practice that has been commonly called bootstrapping, courts
detain females through findings of contempt of court, probation violations, or violations
of court orders for underlying status offenses or minor delinquent behavior (Bishop &
Frazier, 1992; Sherman, 2005). Studies indicate that as a result of "bootstrapping," there
has been an increase in the numbers of female juvenile offenders being detained preadjudication for offenses that are less threatening to the community than those of their
male counterparts. Data obtained from the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative
(JDAI) and launched by the Annie E. Casey Foundation in 1992 have revealed an
emerging trend in juvenile detention. The initial findings of the study reported that during
the period from 1985 to 1995, the number of juveniles housed in secure detention
nationwide increased by 72% (Sherman, 2005). It could be assumed that this increase
could have been due to an increase in violent offenders for whom, for the sake of
community safety, no other alternative could be found. However, less than one-third of
the juvenile offenders in detention in 1995 were charged with a violent offense. In fact,
there were more youth detained for status offenses than violent offenses, with violations
of court orders accounting for 39.9% of the detention population.
42

Regarding gender differences, female juvenile offenders were more likely than
their male counterparts to be detained for status offenses, technical violations and
warrants (Sherman, 2005). In 2001, technical violations and status offenses accounted for
41% of detentions for female juvenile offenders, but accounted for only 25% of
detentions of their male peers. In some circumstances female offenders comprised more
than 70% of youth detained for status offenses (Sickmund et al., 2004). A survey of four
study sites conducted by the American Bar Association and the National Bar Association
(2001) found that although females comprised only 14% of the total detention population
at any given time, 30% of those girls were detained again within one year. For those redetained, 53% of females compared to 41% of their male counterparts were detained for
probation or technical violations. For those who returned to detention twice in one year,
60% of the females compared to 47% of the male juveniles were detained for probation
and technical violations. Even more striking, 72% of the females compared to 49% of the
males who were detained three or more times within one year were detained for probation
violations (American Bar Association & National Bar Association, 2001). Bishop and
Frazier (1992) indicated that gender differences were even more obvious in the use of
detention for repeat status offenders found in contempt of court. Their study found that
the male status offender had a 3.9% chance of incarceration if he was referred for an
additional status offense, but the chance of incarceration increased to 4.4% if he was
found in contempt of court. However, the typical female juvenile offender had a 1.8%

43

chance of incarceration if referred for a status offense with an increase to 63.2% if she
was found in contempt of court (Bishop & Frazier, 1992).
In 2006, the Juvenile Offenders and Victims National Report indicated that this
trend had extended to custodial placements other than detention as well. It reported that
the proportion of females held in custody had increased from 13% in 1991 to 15% by
2003 (Snyder & Sickmund, 2006). However, the female proportion was greater among
status offenders (40%) than delinquent offenders (14%) held in custody (Snyder &
Sickmund, 2006). Gavazzi, Yarcheck and Chesney-Lind (2006) noted in their evaluation
of the risk and needs of youth in a detention center that girls were significantly
more likely to be detained for incorrigibility and domestic violence and
that parents were more likely the complainants. Their findings
indicated that boys were significantly more likely to be arrested for
property offenses with complainants more likely to be citizens in the
community rather than the boys' parents. Providing a strong statement as to
the difference in gender based detention decisions, the authors summarized the difference
between male and female juvenile detention decisions: “…boys are detained as a
response to public safety issues, whereas girls are detained because of problems at home”
(Gavazzi et al., 2006: 608).
Mental Health Disorders and Delinquency
While academic attention to the prevalence of mental disorders among
incarcerated adults and related issues was initiated in the 1970s (Lamb, Wienberger, &
44

Gross, 1998; Metzner, Cohen, & Grossman, 1998), no reliable studies on the prevalence
of psychiatric disorders among juvenile offenders exist prior to the 1990s (Otto et al.,
1992). Studies targeting the examination of these issues specific to juvenile offenders
with mental illness have recently gained momentum. It has been estimated that 9% to
13% of American children and adolescents in the general population between ages nine to
17 have a serious diagnosable psychiatric disorder (Friedman, Katz-Levy, Manderscheid,
& Sondheimer, 1996). However, despite the differences in instrumentation and
methodology, numerous studies conducted over the last decade have indicated much
higher rates of psychiatric disorders, including high rates of traumatic stress, among
youth involved in the juvenile justice system (Abram et al., 2004; Arroyo, 2001;
Cauffman et al., 1998; Wasserman et al., 2002; Wood, Foy, Goguen, Pynoos, & James,
2002; Wood, Foy, Layne, Pynoos, & Boyd, 2002).
The specific scope of the issue has been difficult to identify because of the wide
variety of estimates in each study. Studies initiated in the 1990s estimated prevalence
rates anywhere from 50% to 100%. For instance, Faenza et al. (2000), reported an
estimated prevalence rate of 53% for offenders in Maryland , 76% was reported for
offenders in Texas (Pliszka et al., 2000), and 100% of juveniles were estimated to meet
criteria for a psychiatric disorder in Ohio (Timmons-Mitchell et al., 1997). Teplin et al.
(2002) found that 66% of the males and 74% of the females among a sample of youth
detainees in a large city met diagnostic criteria for at least one mental health diagnosis.
For substance abuse, almost half the entire sample, both male and female, met diagnostic
45

criteria. In 2001, a study evaluated youth involved with both the juvenile justice and child
welfare systems. The study found that 52% of a sample of youths with prior juvenile
justice involvement met criteria for a psychiatric diagnosis, while the child welfare
involved youth indicated a rate of 54% (Garland, Hough, McCabe, Yeh, Wood, & Aarons,
2001).
The variation among findings of previous studies is even more apparent when one
evaluates the difference in rates for specific internalizing disorders. For instance, mood
disorders have been estimated to be as high as 72% (Timmons-Mitchell et al., 1997) to
approximately 20% (Teplin et al., 2002), and a low of 10% (Wasserman et al., 2002).
Anxiety disorders have been indicated at a high of 52% (Timmons-Mitchell et al., 1997),
to 20% - 30% (Teplin et al., 2002), and a low of 8% (Garland et al., 2001). Estimates of
psychotic-spectrum disorders such as schizophrenia or anti-social personality disorder
range from a high of 16% (Timmons-Mitchell et al., 1997) to a low of 1% (Teplin et al.,
2002).
Several explanations exist as to why there is such a disparity in the prevalence of
mental health disorders of youth involved with juvenile justice system. Most consider the
possibility of methodological issues, such as instrumentation or underdeveloped
operational definitions of the disorders (Grisso, 2004). However, a critical overlooked
difference in the studies has been from which stage in the juvenile justice process the
sample of juvenile offenders was drawn. Each of the previous studies attempted to
establish a prevalence rate for psychiatric disorders among youth involved in the juvenile
46

justice system. However, they each included youth at different stages in the juvenile
justice process. Teplin et al. (2002) evaluated youth detained in a temporary detention
center. Those youth were either waiting to appear in court for their adjudication hearing
or were pending a transition to an out-of-home placement as a result of the disposition.
Either way, they were youth who were deemed by the court to be unsafe to the
community to return home. However, Wasserman et al. (2002) included all youth referred
to the intake process for urban probation departments in a selected state. A majority of
those youth returned home after intake, while a select few were detained pending their
court hearing. This indicates that the symptomology and concentration of mental health
needs for justice involved youth vary throughout different intercept points in the system.
Atkins and colleagues (1999) demonstrated different concentrations among youth
involved in both the mental health and juvenile justice system. Using the Diagnostic
Interview Schedule for Children (DISC) 2.3, Atkins found that 86% of youth hospitalized
for a mental health emergency met criteria for at least one mental health diagnosis
(Atkins et al., 1999). However, of the youth in the study receiving treatment in the
community from the local mental health center, 60% met criteria for at least one
psychiatric disorder. In comparison, 72% of youth who were incarcerated in a juvenile
justice setting met criteria for at least one psychiatric disorder, suggesting that
incarceration of youth in the juvenile justice system may be an intermediate step for
mental health treatment between the community mental health and the hospital mental
health systems.
47

Youth involved with the juvenile justice system often have not one but several comorbid psychiatric disorders. Wasserman et al. (2005) found the prevalence of youth who
met criteria for at least one psychiatric disorder to be 39%, with 16% meeting criteria for
three or more disorders. For instance, antisocial behaviors included everything from
serious acts of delinquency such as drug abuse, burglary, vandalism, and assault to minor
status offenses such as truancy and runaway (Henggler, Schoenwald, Rowland, &
Cunningham, 1998). There is considerable overlap in the antisocial behaviors of
delinquent youth and conduct disordered youth, such that treatment needs of youth in the
juvenile justice system are often the same as those for youth in the mental health system
(Melton & Pagliocca, 1992). Some have even argued that the same youth appear in both
systems (Atkins et al., 1999; Cocozza & Skowyra, 2000; Teplin et al., 2002 & Wasserman
et al., 2002).
In addition to the growing evidence of high rates of prevalence in the juvenile
justice system, studies also indicate that mental health disorders are correlated with
delinquent behavior. For instance several prospective studies indicate that hyperactivity
(Mangusson, af Klinteberg, & Stattin, 1994; Lynam, Caspi, & Moffitt, et al., 2000;
Loeber, Brinthaupt, & Green, 1990), conduct disorders (Loeber, 1996; Loeber, 1990;
Farrington, 1999; Loeber & Farrington, 1998), and emotional disorders (Copeland,
Johnson, Keeler, et al., 2007; Boots, 2008; Boots, 2009) are key indicators for
involvement with the justice system. Specifically, Copeland (2007) found that after
controlling for offense level and poverty, 20.6% of female juvenile offending and 15.3%
48

of male juvenile offending was attributable to mental health disorders. Among specific
psychiatric profiles, the study indicated that the strongest association between mental
health disorder and delinquent behavior involved co-occurring anxiety or depressive
disorders. Boots (2009) extended these findings further when it indicated a moderate
correlation between depression and anxiety (r = .577) and future offending.
Gender Disparity in Mental Health Disorders
Piccinelli and Homen (1997) conducted a comprehensive review of several
population based studies from different countries across the world. The study revealed
that women generally had higher rates of depression than men. These differences have
been consistently replicated in studies conducted in clinical, criminal justice, and
community settings (Piccinelli & Homen 1997; Gater et al., 1998; WHO & ICPE, 2000).
Women also have higher prevalence rates of co-occurring anxiety disorders with
depression as a common factor (Kessler et., al, 1994) and these findings have been
consistent across studies evaluating mental health and gender (Linzer, Spitzer, Kroenke et
al, 1996; Resnick et al., 1997). In terms of women’s mental health and criminal justice
involvement, James and Glaze (2006) found that women with mental health disorders
were disproportionately represented in incarceration based settings. Specifically, the
Bureau of Justice Statistics study found that compared to a 12% prevalence rate among
women in the general population, 73% of women in state run prisons and 75% of women
in county jails had mental disorders across the United States (James & Glaze, 2006).

49

Therefore, a major limitation of previous studies regarding disposition decisions
and gender for juvenile offenders is that the datasets utilized did not include extralegal
variables such as trauma, physical or sexual abuse history, and mental health needs that
result in different rates of system processing. In addition to chaotic family dynamics,
female juvenile offenders have significant mental health issues that may contribute to
their behavior (Teplin et al., 2002; Wasserman, McReynolds, Ko, Katz, & Carpenter,
2005). The different experiences of females involved in the juvenile justice system have
been found to correlate to substantially different rates of mental health need and
psychopathology between female and male juvenile offenders. For instance, Dembo et al.
(1995) discovered that although males were more delinquent than females, females
showed higher rates of sexual abuse and exploitation issues, and higher rates of identified
risk factors related mental health need. Therefore, it is not surprising that studies have
consistently indicated that girls have higher rates of psychiatric disorders than their male
counterparts (Abram et al., 2004; Arroyo, 2001; Cauffman et al., 1998; Wasserman et al.,
2002; Teplin, 2002).
A major difference in psychiatric disorders between the genders is related to how
those disorders manifest. Females present a higher prevalence of internalizing disorders
that result in symptoms that are expressed inwardly, while males predominately present
with externalizing behaviors that manifest as substance abuse and behaviors that become
problematic for others (Abram, Teplin, McLelland & Dulcan, 2003; Avison & McAlpine,
1992; Rosenfield, Lennon, & White, 2005; Rosenflield, Lennon, & White, 2006, Teplin
50

et al., 2002; Teplin, et al., 2005). Female juvenile offenders have a lower prevalence of
externalizing disorders such as conduct and oppositional defiant disorder than male
juvenile offenders (Loeber et al., 2000). The behaviors typically exhibited by
internalizing disorders include anxiety, shyness, hypersensitivity, physical complaints,
and withdrawal from others (Kazdin, 1995). Thus, females involved with juvenile justice
system tend to have high rates of anxiety disorders, major depression, post-traumatic
stress disorder, somatization disorders, and borderline personality disorders (Dembo et
al., 1993; Offord, 1987; Rhode, Mace, & Steeley, 1997; Richards, 1996; TimmonsMitchell et al., 1997; Wannan & Fomjbonne, 1998). Comparing sex differences among a
sample of youth in a juvenile detention facility Rohde, Mace and Steeley (1997:192)
found "that girls were more likely than boys to have a lifetime occurrence of major
depression". In addition, adolescent girls with conduct disorders are more at risk than
adolescent males for depression, anxiety, and suicidal behavior (Loeber et al., 2000).
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is one of the disorders that has been more
commonly found among youth incarcerated in the juvenile justice system than those in
the community (Abram, 2004; Cauffman et al., 1998; Wasserman et al., 2002), with
estimates varying from 3% to over 50% (Arroyo, 2001; Garland, et al., 2001; Teplin, et
al., 2002; Wasserman et al., 2002). However, female juvenile offenders are more likely
than males to have higher rates of the disorder. Wood and colleagues (2002) reported that
females reported higher levels of psychological distress, especially among their measures
for PTSD and depression. Abram and colleagues (2004) indicated that among a sample of
51

juveniles in detention, significantly more males (93.2%) than females (84%) reported a
traumatic experience, yet more females (18%) met diagnostic criteria for post-traumatic
stress disorder than males (11%). Additionally, Steiner and colleagues (1997) found that
female offenders were 50% more likely to be diagnosed with post-traumatic disorder than
their male counterparts.
Another critical difference in the diagnosis found between males and females
involved in the juvenile justice system is the prevalence of co-occurring disorders (Kann
& Hanna, 2000; Wannan & Fomjbonne, 1998). Studies of psychiatric disorders and comorbidity consistently report a higher prevalence for females involved than males
(Dembo, Williams, & Schmeidler, 1993; Kataoka, 2001; Randall, Henggeler, Pickrel, &
Brondino, 1999; Ulzen, Psych, & Hamilton, 1998). Specifically, Abram et al. (2003)
found that 46% of males and 57% of females in detention had at least two diagnosable
mental health disorders, compared to the 17% of females and 20% of males who met
criteria for only one disorder. Moffitt and colleagues (2000) found that beginning with the
age of 13 and continuing through adolescence, the symptoms of depression worsen
substantially for girls with co-occurring conduct disorder in comparison to other groups
of either boys or girls.
Mental Health Disorders and Disparate System Response
Studies imply that 20% of youth in the general population have a mental health
disorder, with up to 13% of those youth having a serious disorder (Hubner & Wofson,
2000). However, estimates of youth in the juvenile justice system with mental health
52

disorders show a much higher prevalence ranging from 50% to 80%, with approximately
25% having a serious psychiatric disorder (Cocozza & Skowyra, 2000; Shufelt &
Cocozza, 2006; Skowyra & Powell, 2006; Teplin, Abram, & McClelland, 1998). It is
important to note that the vast majority of individuals arrested are placed on probation
(Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2006), and those with identified mental health disorders are
typically required to participate in treatment as a condition of their probation (Ditton,
1999; Skeem, Emke-Frances, & Louden 2006). Special conditions of
probation require the juvenile probation officer (JPO) to supervise and
enforce mental health treatment, despite the limited community
resources and/or family support to address the identified mental health
issues.
Therefore, a critical component in processing juvenile offenders with mental
health needs in the juvenile justice system relates to assessments made by the supervising
probation officer (Mallicoat, 2007). These assessments are conducted to inform the court
in making disposition decisions and are intended to be individualized to each offender
(Bridges & Steen, 1988; Walsh, 1985; Watkins, 1998). Probation officers do not only
reflect their own perspective in assessing offender behavior, but also the ideology of their
department by linking the characteristics of a particular case within the predetermined
categories of supervision and rehabilitation established by their organization (Cicourel,
1968). Enforcing and monitoring compliance with treatment is viewed as
a probation officer’s primary assignment in supervising offenders with
53

mental illness. However, there are a limited number of standardized
guidelines to assist an officer with the supervision of youth with mental
health disorders, and the few that are available have primarily focused
on the adult system (Skeem, Encandela, & Louden, 2003). Thus, the
interaction of juvenile justice and mental health systems for these
youth can become rather complicated. Relative to offenders without a
diagnosed disorder, those with co-morbid disorders have double the risk of having formal
treatment conditions imposed on them (Monahan et al., 2005). Draine and (2001)
discovered that probation officers supervising mentally ill offenders in the community
actually threatened two-thirds of those offenders with incarceration for noncompliance
with the mandated treatment. When compared to offenders without a mental health
diagnosis, those with a mental health need were less likely to be successful under
supervision and more likely to be revoked to serve disposition in an institution
(Dauphinot, 1996; Pourpino & Motiuk, 1995).
When the youth’s mental illness limits their ability to function,
they may have greater difficulty following the basic conditions of their
probation (Orlando- Morningstar, Skoler, & Holliday, 1999). It is not
uncommon for judges to add conditions to probation that require
compliance with medication, therapy, or other mental health service
programs (Draine & Solomon, 2001; Solomon et. al.,1995).
Incarceration is traditionally viewed as the primary tool available to
54

officers in enforcing probation stipulations. This allows officers to use
technical violations to incarcerate individuals for violating a court order
on behaviors that, by themselves, would not be illegal for the general
population.
This suggests that there would be a higher rate of out-of-home
placement and incarceration as a result of being involved in the
juvenile justice system for juvenile offenders with mental health needs.
In a three year study of adult probationers, Dauphinot (1996) found
that the rates of rearrest for offenders with mental illness (54%) were
significantly greater than that of probationers without mental health
disorders (30%). Not surprisingly, studies have found that offenders
with mental health disorders are disproportionately represented in
juvenile correctional facilities (Atkins et al., 1999; Teplin et al., 1998;
Wasserman et al., 2007).
In addition to their inability to complete community probation, several studies
have called into question how the mentally ill offender is processed through the system.
The most fundamental assumption of mental health competency and justice system
involvement is that mental health disorders are a risk factor for involvement in the
criminal justice system (Winick, 1996). In 1966, with Miranda v. Arizona decision, the
U.S. Supreme Court held that suspects must be made aware of their right to counsel and
the right against self-incrimination. Commonly known as Miranda rights, offenders have
55

the right to waive their rights at any given time. In order for a waiver to be valid, it must
be made intelligently, knowingly, and competently (Redlich, Silverman, & Steiner, 2003).
However, studies have begun to show that offenders with mental health needs, especially
juveniles, are less competent in navigating the justice system than offenders without
mental health disorders (Grisso, 1980; Grisso, 1981; Grisso & Seigel, 1986; Viljoen,
Roesch, & Zapf, 2002). Research has revealed that young age, low intelligence (Grisso,
1981), and mental illness (Viljoen et al., 2002) are correlated with a limited ability to
understand one's legal rights. Specifically, Viljoen (2002, p. 497) found that offenders
with psychotic disorders “demonstrated high levels of impaired legal abilities” when
compared to their counterparts without psychotic disorders. In addition, studies have
found that a vast majority of juvenile offenders waive their rights both to Miranda
(Ferguson & Douglas, 1970; Grisso & Pomicter, 1977) and to counsel during their initial
court hearings (Dodge, 1997), even without coercion (Leo, 1996). More importantly,
courts do not often question the validity of a juvenile's Miranda waiver (Feld, 2000).
The MacArthur Juvenile Adjudicative Competence Study found that the risk of
incompetence to stand trial was greater for juveniles younger than 14 and for youth with
IQ scores below 80 (Grisso et al., 2003). Some studies have extended the evaluation of
capacity to stand trial to include psychiatric disorder. Kazdin (2003) studied the cognitive
deficiencies associated with mental disorders in adolescents, finding that the typical
symptoms of psychiatric disorders include a disorganization of thought that results in the
distortion of reality in decision making. Specifically, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity
56

Disorder (ADHD) and anxiety disorders can increase the risk for impulsive decision
making and impair focus during the decision making processes (Kazdin, 2003). In
addition, depression commonly resulted in a distortion of information processing that
caused an offender to experience difficulty in assessing the implications of their decision
making. Therefore, these youth may be more prone to agreed adjudication procedures
whereby they are funneled deeper into the system than they would have been if their
ability to competently participate in their own defense were not impeded by their
psychiatric disorder(s).
There is some evidence that youth with mental health needs are more harshly
processed by the juvenile justice system than offenders without psychiatric
symptomology or diagnosis. In a study conducted in King County, Washington, found
juveniles participating in public mental health services were almost three times more
likely to become involved with juvenile justice authorities than those of similar
characteristics in the general population (Vander Stoep, Evens and Taub, 1997). Of the
youth referred, juveniles involved with the community mental health system were more
likely to be referred to the juvenile justice system for minor charges such as trespassing,
runaway and minor property damage. In addition, youth involved with the community
mental health system were adjudicated at a higher rate than juveniles not involved with
the mental health system. Specifically, 22% of the referrals among youth from the
community not involved in the mental health system resulted in convictions compared to
47% for the youth involved with mental health system (Vander Stoep, Evens & Taub,
57

1997). Therefore, those youth received more severe sanctions for their behavior than
juveniles without a diagnosis.
Some researchers have speculated that juvenile offenders with mental health
needs are being placed in juvenile justice institutions in order to receive, or pending,
mental health treatment. Atkins (1999) conducted an analysis that included samples of
youth who were receiving services from a community mental health center, a state run
mental health hospital, or incarcerated in a juvenile reception center. The study found that
86% of hospitalized and 60% of those in the community mental health system met
criteria for at least one psychiatric disorder. This was not surprising considering that both
the state and the community mental health systems are designed and mandated to serve
youth and adults with psychiatric disorders. However, the juvenile justice setting
disproportionately held youth with a mental health disorder, with 72% of youth who
were incarcerated in a juvenile justice setting meeting criteria for at least one psychiatric
disorder.
In 2004, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform
focused on the incarceration of youth who were waiting for community mental health
services in the United States (United States House of Representatives, 2004). At the
request of Representative Henry Waxman and Senator Susan Collins, the Special
Investigations Division surveyed juvenile detention facilities across the U.S. The survey
responses indicated that two-thirds of juvenile detention facilities held youth simply
because they were waiting for community mental health treatment. Thirty-three of the
58

responding states indicated that youth were held in detention centers without any formal
charges being levied against them. Of the juvenile detention facilities that reportedly held
youth waiting for community mental health services, two-thirds indicated that several of
these youth attempted suicide while detained in the facility.
Disparate Treatment for Female Offenders with Mental Health Disorders
There is a paucity of literature examining the response of the juvenile justice
system to girls with co-occurring psychiatric disorders and delinquent behaviors.
However, several studies have identified a correlation between severe mental health
disorders and justice system involvement. Davis et al. (2009) found that girls involved
with the mental health system were arrested at younger ages and more frequently than
girls without mental health involvement (Davis, Fisher, Gershenson, Grudzinskas, &
Banks, 2009). Within the mental health system, some studies indicated that boys and girls
were treated differently. Girls had less likelihood of receiving medications and received
them for different diagnoses than males (Zito et al., 1999; Zito et al., 2000). Controlling
for diagnosis, Pavkov et al. (1997) found that for those youth needing hospitalizations,
girls received shorter periods of hospitalization than boys. These facts led some authors
to suggest that girls were typically undertreated for their mental health needs (Cuffe et al.,
1995) and others to suggest that this lack of treatment may result in their involvement in
the juvenile justice system (Dembo et al., 1993; Dembo et al., 1995; Wasserman et al.,
2005). When race was included in analysis, Cuffe et al., found that race and gender both

59

played a role in treatment for mental health needs, cumulating in the highest risk of
under-treatment for African-American females.
Some have indicated that internalizing psychiatric disorders such as depression
influence the propensity of girls' toward antisocial behavior (Kovacs, 1996; Renouf &
Harter, 1990). Copeland et al. (2007) identified a trend toward arrest for females with
depressive and anxiety disorders. Specifically, Copeland found that “20.6% of female
crime and 15.3% of male crime” was attributed to mental health disorders with the
existence of anxiety and depressive disorders as strong indicators for involvement by
female offenders in delinquent behavior (Copeland et al., 2007, p. 1673). Some studies
indicated that girls involved in the juvenile justice system for violent offenses had much
higher rates of anxiety disorders than their male counterparts (Wasserman et al., 2007;
Atkins et al., 1999). Wasserman (2007) found a gender-mental health disorder interaction
indicating that “girls charged with violent crimes were three to five times more likely
than others to report anxiety disorders” (p. 134).
The combination of criminal justice involvement and psychiatric disorders has
been determined to correlate with long-term negative effects for female offenders (Robins
& Price, 1991; Zoccolillo & Rogers, 1991). Robins conducted several studies that
indicated the combination of juvenile delinquency and psychiatric diagnosis predicted
poor long-term outcomes, such as continued mental health needs and high utilization of
social services for females (Robins, 1986; Robins et al., 1991). Specifically, Lewis et al.
(1991) conducted a longitudinal study of 159 women who were committed to the
60

California Youth Authority during the eight year period of 1961 - 1969. The sample
included girls who were randomly assigned to either incarceration or community
treatment. The average number of arrests prior to the assignment to either the community
treatment or incarceration group was 4.6, with a majority of those being status offenses.
However, they found that neither treatment (community or incarceration) had an effect.
The mean arrests for the community treatment group after assignment increased to 7.2,
with the seriousness of the offenses increasing while as adults; only 4% had no further
arrests in both groups. Twenty-seven percent had at least two arrests with 40% having
been arrested for crimes against person and 60% being incarcerated at least once (Lewis
et al., 1991).
Summary
Findings of studies examining the influence of gender on juvenile justice system
processing vary. Some suggest that for status offenses, females receive more severe
sanctions than their male counterparts (Bishop & Frazier, 1992; Chesney-Lind, 1977,
1988; Odem, 1995; Shelden & Horvath, 1986), while others report that males receive
more severe sanctions for delinquent acts (Bishop & Frazier, 1996; Farrington & Morris,
1983; Johnson & Scheuble, 1991). This has led some theorists to try and resolve the
apparent contradiction by claiming that girls are given harsher dispositions for less
serious offenses and more lenient dispositions for more severe offenses. MacDonald &
Chesney-Lind (2001) indicated that in the petition, adjudication, and disposition stages of
the juvenile justice system, there were no differences between boys and girls in decision
61

to petition an offense, with "charge seriousness" being more important for girls at
adjudication, but more important for boys at disposition.
Adding complexity to the discussion, recent studies suggest there is a correlation
between juvenile justice system processing and psychiatric disorders, with some research
indicating that girls with mental health disorders are funneled deeper into the system for
less serious offenses than their male counterparts. Abram (2003), in a study of Cook
County Juvenile Detention youth, found that not only were females 1.4 times more likely
than males to meet diagnostic criteria for at least one disorder, they were also more likely
to have at least one co-morbid disorder. More specifically, Davis (2009) discovered
females receiving care in the community mental health system were arrested younger
ages and more frequently than girls not receiving public mental health treatment (Davis et
al., 2009) and for those youth needing hospitalizations, girls received shorter periods of
hospitalization than boys (Pavkov,1997). These findings have lead some researchers to
suggest that girls were typically undertreated for their mental health needs (Cuffe et al.,
1995) and others to suggest that this lack of treatment results in their involvement in the
juvenile justice system (Dembo et al., 1993; Dembo et al., 1995; Wasserman et al., 2005).
Female juvenile offenders with psychiatric disorders enter a juvenile justice
system that is often ill equipped to appropriately handle the trauma they have experienced
and multiple diagnoses, and multi-systemic issues facing them. In addition, targeted
research evaluating the influence of gender and psychiatric disorder in post-adjudication
disposition decisions for juvenile offenders is lacking. Therefore, a study examining the
62

roles and potential interactions of gender and mental health need in juvenile justice
system processing is warranted. Analyzing the extent to which psychiatric disorder
influences juvenile justice system processing will provide a more comprehensive picture
of the unique contribution of gender differences in behavior and juvenile justice system
involvement. Chapter three describes the methods employed in the current study to
evaluate the influence of gender and mental health need in disposition decisions resulting
in residential placement. It includes a description of the data to be examined, sampling
procedures, measures, and statistical analyses to be performed.

Chapter III
Method
Overview of Study Design
At the time of this study, the juvenile justice system in Texas includes two
oversight arms of state government. First, the Texas Youth Commission (TYC) is the
institutional division of juvenile justice, in which juveniles are wards of the state and
participate in rehabilitative programming in secure institutions administered by the state
of Texas. The second division involves the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission (TJPC).
The TJPC functions as an administrative oversight agency whereby youth remaining
63

under the supervision of local, county based juvenile probation departments are subject to
progressive sanctions designed to divert youth from commitment to the state operated
TYC. TJPC works in partnership with each of the 165 local juvenile boards and juvenile
probation departments to support and enhance juvenile probation services throughout the
state (Texas Juvenile Probation Commission and Texas Youth Commission, 2010).
TYC is directly responsible for administering the state’s juvenile correctional
facilities, parole programs, and related community-based services for youth who are
committed to the custody and care of the state. In addition to providing services for youth
committed to its custody, the agency operates divisions for training, monitoring, security,
research, treatment, education, medical oversight, and administrative operations. Most of
the studies conducted on juvenile offenders focus on youth who fall within the purview of
TYC or the equivalent institutional division of other state juvenile justice systems.
However, youth are often subject to intermediate actions by local juvenile authorities
before being committed to an institution operated by the State, with local jurisdictions
serving as the gate keepers of youth sent to state run-youth prisons such as TYC. For this
reason, the current study evaluates the dispositional decisions made under the jurisdiction
of three local juvenile probation departments.
To evaluate the potential effects of gender and mental health need on juvenile
justice system processing, a three-part analysis was conducted. The first part included an
evaluation of the influence of gender on placement among all juveniles referred during
the sample period. The second part included an evaluation of the influence of mental
64

health need on out-of-home placements and TYC commitments. The third part of the
analysis included an evaluation of the influence of gender on out-of-home placement for
juveniles, controlling for level of mental health need and mental health diagnosis.
Although each of the probation department’s participating in the study had onsite clinical
staff, not every juvenile referred to a department received a mental health assessment
during the sample period. Therefore, the second and third parts of the study included a
two tiered approach. The tier one included an analysis using a computed level of mental
health need based upon the cutoff scores on the MAYSI-2. The second tier included
analysis on the subsample of youth who received a mental health assessment as a part of
their involvement in the department.
Sample Determination
In order to include a large sample of juveniles across different jurisdictions of
juvenile justice processing system, three urban counties were chosen to participate in the
study. The specific counties selected for this study were chosen for the following reason:
1) juveniles in their jurisdiction account for a majority of the juveniles processed in the
state annually (Texas Juvenile Probation Commission, 2007; Texas Juvenile Probation
Commission, 2008), and 2) each juvenile probation department housed on-site mental
health assessment centers staffed with licensed clinical professionals to assess the mental
health needs of youth referred to the department. The initial sample included all youth
referred during the sample period of January 1, 2007 through December 31, 2008 (N =
40,917). This secondary data set included all offense, demographic, and disposition data
65

collected by trained juvenile probation officers and clinicians within the departments and
was obtained as a result of approval from the Chief Juvenile Probation Officer and the
juvenile board upon receipt of approval from the Institutional Review Board at Prairie
View A&M University. Not all juveniles referred during the sample period actually
received a mental health screening or mental health assessment. Therefore, the samples of
juveniles used to test the predictive nature of mental health need and gender in justice
system processing (H2 & H3) comprised two subsets of the initial sample. The first
subsample included juveniles who received the state mandated mental health screening,
MAYSI - 2 (n = 34,222). The second subsample included all juveniles who received a
mental health assessment from the department's clinical staff (n = 9,099).
Measures
Predictor variables.
The main predictor variables considered were referral offense seriousness, gender
and level of mental health need. Gender is a dichotomous static variable and was coded
as male (0) or female (1) for analysis. However, because the variables of offense
seriousness and level of mental health need could be interpreted with a broad array of
values, specific operational definitions and categorical values for those variables were
developed prior to conducting analysis of the data.
Offense seriousness.
Youth could have been referred to local juvenile probation departments for
multiple offenses on any one referral event. Therefore, this study targeted offenses
66

associated with the referral event that resulted in the most severe disposition during the
sample period. The categorical coding guidelines identified within the TJPC data code
book were used as a guideline for establishing the operational definitions and assigning
categorical values for offense seriousness. The TJPC data codebook is used by juvenile
probation officers collecting and entering data into the state's data collection system.
Using this coding strategy reduced some potential threats to reliability in the study. The
first set of recodes categorized the 4,019 types of offenses contained in the TJPC code
book into a continuous classification variable ranging from the least serious 1 (status
offenses) to the most severe 8 (capital felony). To capture the specific data elements
identified in the literature as key distinguishing features of delinquent behavior and
involvement in the juvenile justice system between female and male juvenile offender, a
second group of offense recodes comprised of two different categories was undertaken.
The first category of recoded offenses was developed in order to evaluate the
potential bootstrapping of juveniles into and through the juvenile justice system. The
term "boot strapping" has been defined in the literature as the process of engaging in a
practice whereby courts detain females through findings of contempt of court, probation
violations, or violations of court orders for underlying status offenses or minor delinquent
behavior (Bishop & Frazier, 1992; Sherman, 2005). This resulted in the creation of the
Bootstrap composite comprised of the following categories: Traditional, Violation, and
Else. The Traditional bootstrap category was inclusive of offenses that have been
typically categorized as status offenses (otherwise known as “Conduct Indicating Need
67

for Supervision Offenses” or CHINS offenses), Class C misdemeanors, and contempt of
court referrals, and was assigned a value of one. These types of offenses include activity
such as runaway, truancy, and curfew violations. Class C misdemeanors are typically
violations of city or county ordinances and are processed in a manner similar to status
offenses. The Violation category included offenses related to violation of probation or
juvenile court order and received a value of two. All other offenses were recoded into an
Else category and assigned a value of zero. The final recode of the bootstrap level
offenses resulted in the creation of a status variable where status offense equaled one and
all other offense categories equaled zero.
The second set of recoded offenses was developed to evaluate the domestic
violence correlation with female offending and the assaultive nature of externalizing
behaviors of males with mental health disorders. This resulted in the creation of a Victim
composite variable comprised of the following four categories: Domestic, Other, Public,
and Else. Offenses related to assaultive acts occurring within the family infrastructure
such as assault on a sibling were categorized into Domestic, while those related to assault
or violence on public figures such as police officers and teachers were categorized into
the Public. All other assault and violence related offenses were coded into Other. Each
category was assigned a value based on the relational distance between the offender to
the victim with Domestic receiving a value of one, Other a value of two, and Public a
value of three. All offenses not related to assaultive behavior, such as possession of drugs
or truancy, were categorized into Else and assigned a value of zero.
68

Mental health need.
In 2001, the Texas Legislature initiated a statute that mandated TJPC to
implement a mental health screening protocol and develop a policy of recommended
actions based upon those screening criteria for local juvenile probation departments
(Schwank, Espinosa, & Tolbert, 2003). This protocol was to serve as a means of guiding
departments in making decisions regarding when to refer juveniles for assessment by a
mental health professional. TJPC selected the Massachusetts Youth Screening InstrumentSecond Version (Maysi-2) as the mental health screening instrument, requiring its use for
all youth referred to local juvenile probation departments (Schwank et al., 2003). As of
2004, 36 states have adopted the Maysi-2 for use within their juvenile justice systems
(Grisso, 2004). The Maysi-2 “serves as a first look at the possibility of a youth’s special
mental health needs, but it does not seek to diagnose mental disorders or to provide
information on which important and long-term interventions should be decided” (Grisso
& Barnum, 2000, p. 11).
The Maysi-2 is a 52-item, self-report screening instrument that was developed to
be administered to youth between the ages of 12 and 17 upon intake in the juvenile
justice system. The questions within the seven subscales within the Maysi-2 were
developed at a fifth-grade reading level and have five to nine items requiring a yes/no
response. Each of the scales contains established caution and warning cutoffs. The
caution cutoffs were developed by comparing Maysi-2 scales to comparable scales on the
Youth Self-Report Inventory and the Millon Adolescent Clinical Inventory (Grisso &
69

Barnum, 2006). If scores fall within the caution cutoff, then the juvenile has scored at a
level that may have possible clinical significance (Grisso & Barnum, 2000). The warning
cutoffs were determined by identifying scores in the top 10% of the sample of juveniles
used to determine the norm. The warning cutoff indicates "the youth has scored
exceptionally high in comparison to other youths in the juvenile justice system" (Grisso
& Barnum, 2000, p. 29).
Depending on the combination and number of warning and cautions the youth
receives on the Maysi-2, the recommended actions include a referral for a mental health
assessment. The cutoffs set by TJPC for a mental health assessment referral include two
or more warnings or four or more cautions across any of the subscales, or a warning on
the suicide ideation subscale. Any juvenile meeting these criteria are required by TJPC to
be referred by the juvenile probation department to a mental health professional for an
evaluation (Schwank et al., 2003). TJPC does not require the local juvenile probation
departments to ensure that a juvenile meeting the cut off requirement to actually receive a
mental health assessment.
The construction of the Maysi-2 began with the development of a series of items
derived from the symptoms commonly associated with behavioral and psychiatric
symptoms among adolescents (Archer, Vauter Stredny, Mason & Arnau, 2004). A series
of factor analyses were performed during the development of the Maysi-2. Using both
principal component analysis and varimax rotation with Kaiser normalization the
analyses were performed for both a combined group of boys and girls as wells as
70

separately by gender. The analyses indicated that the Maysi-2 items produced scores
across six clinical scales: Alcohol and Drug Use (ADU), Angry- Irritable (AI),
Depressed- Anxious (DA), Somatic Complaints (SC), Suicidal Ideation (SI), and Thought
Disturbance (TD) and one non-clinical Traumatic Experiences (TE). However, the factor
analyses determined that the Thought Disturbance scale was only valid for boys (Grisso
& Barnum, 2006).
The developers tested the validity of the factor structure on the Maysi-2 with a
sample of over 4,000 juveniles from the California juvenile justice system (Grisso &
Barnum, 2006). Regarding the concepts of differential validity, studies have consistently
found virtually identical factor analyses upon administration of the Maysi-2 to juveniles
from different ethnic and geographic regions of the country (Archer, Stredney, Mason, &
Arnau, 2004). Studies have also tested the concurrent validity and have indicated that the
Maysi-2 scales consistently correlate with scores on other mental health scales (Archer et.
al, 2004; Grisso & Barnum, 2006). Test-retest reliability determined very little variation
when comparing scores on Maysi-2s administered soon after admission to a facility and
scores on administration of the Maysi-2 up to 8 days later with a range of 0.53 to 0.89
(Grisso & Barnum, 2006).
Because TJPC only requires that a youth who scored within the cutoffs of the Maysi2 to be referred for a mental health assessment from a licensed clinician, and not ensure that
the youth receives an assessment, the mental health need variables were operationally defined
and categorized through a two tiered process. Tier one was developed through the use of the
Massachusetts Youth Screening Instrument Version 2 User’s Manual and Technical Report

71

(Grisso, 2006) as the categorization guide, and included juveniles who received an
administration of the Maysi-2. This resulted in the development of a series of variables based
on the Maysi-2 cutoff criteria. Each of the subscales of the Maysi-2, with the exception of
Traumatic Experiences, were categorized into the values of zero to two. The scores that fell
within the caution range were assigned a value of one, those within the warning range were
assigned a value of two, and those that did not fall within the cutoff ranges were assigned a
value of zero. A final Maysi-2 variable (Assess) was developed by computing the
combination of caution and warning scores across subscales that would initiate the referral
for a mental health assessment as established by TJPC. The Traumatic Experiences subscale
does not have an established cutoff or warning criteria, therefore that subscale was kept in the
original reporting format with a scoring range of 0 to 5 (0=no traumatic experiences; 5=five
traumatic experiences).
The development of the second tier included the use of the Diagnostic and Statistical
Manual of Mental Disorders – IV (DSM – IV; American Psychiatric Association, 1994) as the
categorization guide, and included data on juveniles who received a mental health assessment
from the licensed clinical staff in the mental health assessment centers of the juvenile
probation departments. In order to ensure that all information that may be valuable to a
clinician in planning treatment is included in an assessment, the DSM-IV utilizes a multiaxial
evaluation system. With this system, information on the juvenile being assessed is included in
fives axes. Axis I and II comprise mental disorders; Axis III, physical conditions and
disorders; and, Axes IV and V, comprise psychosocial stressors and a global assessment of
functioning (American Psychiatric Association, 1994). Due to the fact that this study is

72

focused on the influence of gender and mental health need on out-of-home placement, only
diagnostic data included on Axis I and II were included. Therefore, the original 280
diagnostic codes contained within the assessment data were re-coded into four categorized
composite variables for analysis.
The first set of diagnostic composites was developed to first test for the influence of
multiple disorders, including substance abuse, and to test the influence of externalizing
versus internalizing diagnoses on placement out of the home. This resulted in the
development of Comorbid, Substance, Externalizing, and Internalizing. The data collection
system developed by each of the local juvenile probation departments only allowed for up to
six diagnoses to be collected for each child. Therefore, the values within the Comorbid
variable computed the number of diagnoses rather than type of disorder and ranged from a
value of 0 to 6. The Substance composite was developed to capture the most common co-

occurring substance disorders related to youth with psychiatric diagnoses. Typical
disorders associated with this category include cannabis, cocaine, amphetamine,
hallucinogen, and polysubstance dependence as well as other substance abuse (Teplin,
et.al., 1998; Teplin et.al., 2002; Wasserman, et.al., 2005). Similar to the Comorbid
composite, the Substance composites values ranged from 0 to 6.
The Externalizing composite was developed to capture the most common diagnoses
associated with external disorders. External disorders include behaviors that "are directed
toward the environment and others" (Kazdin, 2005, p. 8). Typically these include behaviors
associated with problems related to impulsiveness, inattention, and overreaction. The primary
behaviors associated with this category include being oppositional, hyperactive, aggressive,

73

and antisocial (Kazdin, 2005). The psychiatric disorders included within this category were
attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, conduct disorder and
disruptive disorder. (Kazdin, 2005; Texas Department of State Health Services [TDSHS],

2007).
The Internalizing composite was developed to capture the most common diagnoses
associated with internalizing disorders. Internalizing disorders include emotions and

behaviors that are directed toward the self or internal experience (Kazdin, 2005). Typical
behaviors associated with this category include inhibition, withdrawal, disassociation,
and constraint (Kazdin, 2005). The psychiatric disorders included within this category
were depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and other mood disorders (Compton,
Burns, Egger, & Robertson, 2002; Kazdin, 2005; TDSHS, 2007).
Not all the potential psychiatric diagnoses fit within the guidelines of the
externalizing and internalizing composite categories. Therefore, a second set of diagnostic
composites was developed in order to test for potential effects by specific disorder types
while excluding diagnostic categories not related to adolescent mental health such as
dementia related to alzheimer's and pervasive developmental disorders. The diagnosis
composites were limited to the most commonly occurring disorders. This final set of
composites included bipolar, depression, anxiety, adjustment, conduct, oppositional, attention
deficit and hyperactivity, and disruptive disorders each with a value of 0 to 6. The composites
were then combined to form the final composite variable that was inclusive of all potential
psychiatric diagnostics combined with a value of 0 to 6.

Outcome measures.
74

The disposition variable was developed by taking into consideration the resulting
seriousness of supervision or court ordered jurisdiction for the juvenile. The lowest level
of disposition was assigned a value of 0 and included dispositions that resulted in no
supervision or consultation of caution by a probation officer. This category included
prosecutor non-suits, court dismissal, case withdrawal, case consolidation, and a finding
of not guilty. The next level of disposition included referrals that were counseled and
released or, as described in the TJPC code book, “supervisory cautioned”. A supervisory
caution typically includes a one-meeting with a juvenile probation officer whereby the
officer "cautions" the juvenile and assigned was assigned a value of 1. The next three
levels include dispositions that required some ongoing supervision by a juvenile
probation officer and included deferred prosecution, adjudicated to probation, and
modified of probation assigned the value of 2 through 4, respectively. The two most
serious levels included dispositions that resulted in a change in jurisdiction in the youth’s
case such as the commitment to TYC or transferring jurisdiction from the juvenile court
to the adult system (certified as adult), and were assigned the value of 5 and 6,
respectively.
In addition to the state- funded and TYC, the juvenile court has the option of
ordering the juvenile probation department to take custody of a juvenile on behalf of the
county and place them in a broad array of facilities including county operated secure preadjudication detention, county operated secure post-adjudication facilities, and nonsecure programs that are licensed by the state's child welfare system. A facility
75

composite variable was developed in order to account for the level of severity by facility
type. The categorization of this level included not only the determination of whether the
facility was secure or non-secure, but also consideration of what intercept point in the
juvenile justice system (pre or post disposition) the juvenile could be placed within the
facility. Although often a secure setting, juvenile detention facilities are the first type of
facility within the juvenile justice system that a juvenile can be placed, and juveniles
typically spend less amount of time in detention than in other types of placements.
Therefore, detention was assigned the lowest level of facility severity and assigned the
value of 1. The next three levels of facility severity within the facility composite were
non-secure, secure, and TYC, assigned the values of 2 through 4, respectfully.
Control measures.
The control measures considered in this study included age, ethnicity, offense
history, disposition history, and placement history. Demographic data was provided for all
youth referred to the partnering juvenile probation departments during the sample period.
To test for ethnic influences on the outcome measures in the regression models, the
dummy variables of Hispanic and Black were created. Each was coded into a binary (0,
1) variable, with the test ethnicity (Hispanic or Black) coded as 1 and all other ethnicities
0. For age, however, previous studies suggest that one of the strongest predictors of future
offending is age at first referral. Both age at first referral as well as age at target referral
were included for analysis.

76

Almost half of the juveniles in the sample had a prior record with the partnering
juvenile probation departments (n = 16,077). For these juveniles, offense history was
categorized using the TJPC code book. The same process was employed in the
development of the historical offense composite variables as was used in the development
of the referral offense variables. In addition to the composites related to bootstrap level
offenses and assault related offenses (included in the referral level analysis), the historical
offense composites included variables related to the number of previous referrals and the
number of previous offenses by type (seriousness, substance, and sex related).
The disposition history variable was created through the development of a
composite variable that included the most severe disposition prior to the juvenile's
referral to the juvenile probation department during the sample period. Similar to the
offense history composite development, the disposition history composite was developed
in the same manner as the referral disposition. However, in the historical variables, only
those resulting in supervision were considered and included deferred prosecution,
adjudicated to probation, and modified probation coded 1 through 3 respectfully.
The placement history variable was created using the same composite process as
the referral placement variable. However, in addition to level of most severe placement,
the additional variables of average number of placements by type and length of stay were
also computed. Due to the fact that placement history was considered a separate control
measure, TYC commitment was relegated to the placement history composite variables.
However, length of stay for TYC was not available in the data set collected.
77

Hypotheses.
H1: Female juvenile offenders are ordered to out-of-home placement more often
than males for lower level offenses.
H2: Juvenile offenders with mental health needs are ordered to out-of-home
placement more often than juvenile offenders without mental health needs with
similar offenses.
H3: Female juvenile offenders with mental health needs are ordered to out-ofhome placement at a higher rate for lesser offenses than male juvenile offenders
with similar mental health need.
Analyses
Because this study intended to not only evaluate the ratio of differences between
the pathway that male and female offenders take to, and through, the juvenile justice
system, but also to apply predictive modeling to the factors that determine the pathway,
cross tabular, Ordinary Least Squares (OLS), and binary logistic regression analyses were
utilized for each hypothesis. Cross tabulation analysis provides analysis of the
relationship between two or more categorical variables and is typically presented in a
matrix format. OLS regression is a common model used in social sciences that examines
the relationship between a dependent variable and a collection or series of independent
variables. OLS can provide values that extend beyond a 0 or 1. Binary logistic regression
analysis allows one to predict a discrete outcome (dependent or outcome variables) from
a set of variables that may be continuous, discrete, dichotomous, or a mix of any of these
78

(independent or predictor variables) and is limited to a value of 0 or 1 because the
dependent or response variable is dichotomous. Discriminate analysis is also sometimes
used to predict an outcome with only two groups. However, discriminate analysis can
only be used with continuous predictor variables. Thus, in instances where the predictor
variables are categorical, or a mix of continuous and categorical, or the variables are
dichotomous (i.e. converted to a binary format), logistic regression is preferred. The tests
for each of the hypotheses in this study begin with bivariate analysis utilizing cross
tabulation followed up by multivariate analysis using OLS. H1 and H2 also required the
inclusion of the interaction terms, "gender", and “mental health” which required separate
female and male models. Separate, binary logistic regression was conducted with the
predictor variables regressed on each of the four facility types. Additional analysis was
conducted to test for differences between regression coefficients of the gendered models.
The formula suggested by Paternoster, Mazerolle, and Piquero (1998) was used to test for
differences between the model coefficients:
Z=

b1 −b2

√ SEb + SEb
2
1

2
2

Analyses yielding statistically significant differences among the regression coefficients
between the genders were included in the discussion. Any coefficient differences that did
not reach statistical significance were not discussed.

79

To examine the potential multicollinearity among the different control and
predictor variables, an examination of the simple correlations among the predictor
variables was conducted with specific emphasis on mental health need, gender, and level
of offense. This inter-correlational analysis was conducted using Spearman’s Rho.
Spearman's Rho can test the independence between two variables when evaluating a null
hypothesis when the predictor variables are ordinal (Myers, 1990). Further robustness
checks were performed to assess the potential for, and to correct if necessary, the
influence of missing cases, small cell size, county-level effects, and selection bias that
could result from successive stages of case processing. These analyses are described in
greater detail along with a presentation of the results in Chapter IV of this text.

80

Chapter IV
Analysis and Results
This chapter presents the results from analyses examining the relationship
between gender, mental health need, and disposition decisions resulting in out-of-home
placement. The test for each hypothesis is presented in order. The first section of this
chapter contains the descriptive analysis of the sample population, outcome, predictor,
and control variables for the study. The second section includes the bivariate and
mulitivariate analysis for the first hypothesis, with the third and fourth sections
containing the analyses for the second and third hypotheses, respectively. The first
hypothesis includes analyses on the entire sample population, while the second and third
include analyses on subsamples with inclusive mental health screening (Maysi-2) and
assessment data. Each section includes tests for multicollinearity.
Descriptive Analysis of Sample
The initial sample contained 40,917 unduplicated youth who were referred to
three of the largest juvenile probation departments in the state of Texas during the sample
81

period of January 1, 2007 through December 31, 2008. A majority of the youth in the
sample were male (67.6%), and from a minority ethnic group (40.2% Hispanic; 37%
Black), with a mean age at referral of 14.91 years. Table 1 provides an overview of the
demographic information for the sample.

Table 1 Demographic distribution of sample population (N = 40,917)
Demographics
N
Age
10
204
11
648
12
1,720
13
3,884
14
6,870
15
10,486
16
14,689
17
2,304
18+
112
Race
White
8,729
Black
15,138
Hispanic
16,442
Asian
432
Native American
34
Other
142
Gender
Female
13,247
Male
27,670
Total
Note: Due to rounding error, percentages might not add up to 100%.
82

%
0.5
1.6
4.2
9.5
16.8
25.6
35.9
5.6
0.3
21.3
37.0
40.2
1.1
0.1
0.3
32.4
67.6

Crosstab analysis was completed to evaluate the differences in the classification
of offenses at referral between female and male juvenile offenders, and included the
composite variables of offense severity (Class), Bootstrap, and Victim. Although girls
had a higher percentage of status offenses at referral than males (33.4% and 19.1%
respectively), Class B Misdemeanors accounted for the majority of offenses for both
genders (41.8% female; 37.3% male).
Descriptive analysis for the secondary composite variables revealed some gender
differences among the youth referred during the sample period. Analysis on the Bootstrap
composite revealed that, girls had almost double (11.8%) the percentage of traditional
bootstrap offenses (status offenses and contempt of court citations) compared to boys
(6.2%), while boys had significantly more Violations of Probation (VOP). Analysis of the
Victim composite revealed that girls had a higher percentage (2.8%) of domestic victims
than their male counterparts (1.7%), with virtually no difference among the Other and
Public categories. Table 2 provides an overview of the frequency distribution and
significance of offenses resulting in the most severe disposition by gender.
Table 2 Percent of offenses resulting in most severe disposition by gender (N = 40,917)
Offense
Not Specified
Status
MB
MA
FS
F3
F2
F1

Female

Male

Total

0.3
33.4
41.8
16.0
1.3
4.3
2.3
0.5

0.5
19.1
37.3
20.2
3.5
8.6
7.8
2.8

0.4
23.7
38.8
18.8
2.8
7.2
6.0
2.1

83

χ2
1996.33*

FX
0.0
0.1
0.0
Bootstrap
Traditional
11.8
6.2
8.0
VOP
8.3
13.3
11.6
Else
79.9
80.6
80.4
Victim
Domestic
2.8
1.7
2.1
Other
10.2
10.1
10.1
Public
0.8
0.8
0.8
Else
86.2
87.5
87.0
Note: Due to rounding error, percentages might not add up to 100%
*p < .0001

547.60*

57.71*

Descriptive Analysis of History Variables
Over 30% of girls and 43% of boys in the sample had a prior offense and referral
history. Of those youth with prior history, boys had a larger mean number of previous
referrals as well as a higher mean on the offense seriousness (Class) than girls. For
assaultive offenses, the mean victim relational score was lower for girls than boys
indicating that more victims of female assaultive offenses were domestic than Public or
Other. Boys had a higher mean of prior substance related offenses than girls as well as a
higher mean of violation of probation and felony offenses. Boys also had a higher mean
number of previous probations than girls. Table 3 provides an overview of the referral
and offense history by gender.
Table 3 Offense and referral history by gender (n = 16,077).
Female (n =
4,098)
Referral Count
Class
Victim
Substance

Mean

SD

Max

Gamma

t

2.26
2.45
0.47
0.14

2.03
2.00
0.89
0.51

25
7
3
2

-.170
-.447
-.058
-.539

11.08*
35.39*
3.32*
19.72*

84

Bootstrap
VOP
Misdemeanor
Felony
Probation History
Male (n = 11,978)
Referral Count
Class
Victim
Substance
Bootstrap
VOP
Misdemeanor
Felony
Probation History
*p < .0001

0.15
0.27
1.05
0.19
0.54

0.40
0.83
1.32
0.47
0.79

3
12
16
4
5

.137
-.227
-.265
-.535
-.381

-4.17*
7.65*
16.01*
26.47*
23.24*

2.74
3.54
0.52
0.40
0.12
0.41
1.52
0.53
0.93

2.55
1.78
0.89
0.80
0.38
1.01
1.72
0.78
0.98

31
8
3
2
5
16
21
10
7

-.170
-.447
-.058
-.539
.137
-.227
-.265
-.535
-.381

11.08*
35.39*
3.32*
19.72*
-4.17*
7.65*
16.01*
26.47*
23.24*

Probation was the most severe previous supervision for both genders accounting
for 77.5% and 71.8% of previous supervisions for girls and boys respectively, χ2, (6),
665.69, p < .0001. Boys also had a higher percentage of modifications of probation
(17.7%), than girls (13.5%), χ2, (6), 29.97, p <.0001.
Descriptive Analysis of Disposition and Placement Variables from Sample Period
Although girls had a larger percentage of dispositions with a limited level of
supervision by the juvenile probation department such as counseling sanctions (11.6%)
and deferred prosecution (34.8%) than their male counterparts (5.6% and 26.6%
respectively), the percentage of girls and boys that received dispositions resulting in no
supervision were comparable across genders. Adjudication to probation accounted for a
higher percentage of dispositions for boys (29.9%) than for girls (17.2%). Boys also
received almost double the amount of dispositions resulting in modification of existing
probation orders (4.4%) than girls (2.4%) as well as a much higher percentage
85

commitments to TYC. Table 4 provides a frequency distribution for the most severe
disposition by gender.
Table 4 Percent of most severe dispositions by gender (N = 40,917).

Disposition
No Supervision
Counsel
Deferred
Probation
Modified
TYC
Certified
*p < .0001

Female (N =
13,247)

Male (N =
27,670)

33.3
11.6
34.8
17.2
2.4
0.6
0.1

29.3
5.6
26.6
29.9
4.4
4.1
0.5

Gamma
-.235*

Youth can be removed from their homes by the juvenile court and placed in outof-home placement in the custody of county-based juvenile probation departments both
pre- and post- adjudication. Typically, detention would be a pre-adjudication out-ofhome placement, while secure and non-secure placements would be ordered postadjudication by the court during the disposition hearing. For juveniles removed from the
home, detention accounted for the majority of placements for youth of both genders.
However, crosstab analysis revealed some gender differences between non-secure and
secure placements. Girls had a higher percentage of non-secure placements (5.3%) than
boys (2.8%), while boys had a much higher percentage of secure placements (12.3%)
than girls (1.0%). Table 5 provides an overview of most severe county-based placement
frequency by gender.
Table 5 Percent county based out-of-home placements by gender (N = 40,917).
86

Detention
Non-Secure
Secure
*p < .0001

Female (N =
13,247)
29.4
5.3
1.0

Male (N =
27,670)
46.4
2.8
12.3

χ2
1062.34*
152.54*
1442.13*

To analyze the differences in types of placements further, the county-based
placement variables of detention, non-secure, and secure, and TYC were collapsed into a
new binary variable that included placement (1) and no placement (0). Analysis on this
new variable indicated that when detention is included as a placement, there was virtually
no difference in out-of-home placement versus no placement for boys. However, for girls
a much smaller percentage accounted for out-of-home placement (29.9%) than those who
remained in the community (70.1%). When detention was removed from the placement
variable, placements for boys decreased by almost 30 percentage points while girls
decreased by 23 percentage points. Table 6 provides an overview of the variability in outof-home placement by gender.
Table 6 Crosstab comparison of out-of-home placement by gender with and without
detention (N =40,917).
Female (N =
13,245)
Placement
No Placement
Male (N =
27,670)
Placement
No Placement
2
χ
*p < .0001

With detention (%)

Without Detention (%)

29.9
70.1

6.9
93.1

49.2
50.8
1367.25*

19.3
80.7
1058.38*

87

Bivariate Tests for H1
The next set of analyses evaluated the variability between specific types of out-ofhome placement by gender and offense. For this analysis, the continuous classification
variable for offense classification was recoded into 1= Status (Class C Misdemeanors and
other Conduct Indicating Need for Supervision offenses), 2 = Misdemeanor (Class B and
Class C Misdemeanors), and 3 = Felony (all felony level offenses). Initial, crosstab
analysis of all youth referred (N = 40,917) during the sample period indicated that a
majority of female juveniles (62.9%) remained in the community while a majority of
their male counterparts (66.2%) were removed from their homes. For both genders,
misdemeanor offenders accounted for the highest percentages of county based out-ofhome placements. However, male felons accounted for the highest percentage of TYC
commitments. Table 7 provides an overview of offense categories by gender and
placement type for all youth referred during the sample period.
Table 7 Crosstab analysis of offense categories by gender, offense, and placement type
for all youth referred during sample period (N =40,917).
Female (N
=13,245)
Status
Misd.
Felony
χ2
Male (N =
27,670)
Status
Misd.
Felony
χ2

Detention

Non-Secure

Secure

TYC

4.0
20.5
5.0
1281.10*

1.5
3.0
0.8
56.26*

0.0
0.9
0.8
67.13*

0.2
0.2
0.2
66.25*

5.1
26.1
15.1
1871.01*

0.0
2.0
1.0
168.35*

3.0
6.0
3.3
130.01*

1.2
1.2
2.2
498.53*

88

Note: More than one type of placement is possible therefore the percentages across
categories may not equal 100%.
*p < .0001
In order to evaluate differences between male and female juvenile offenders by
offense severity and placement type, the next analysis concentrated only on youth who
were removed from their homes and ordered to any out-of-home placement by the
juvenile court. Of those youth detained, girls had higher percentages of status offenses
(13.4%) and misdemeanors (68.5%), while felony offenses accounted for a higher
percentage of male (30.7%) detentions than girls (16.7%). A similar pattern emerged
when analysis was conducted on youth placed in non-secure placements. Girls had much
higher percentages of all three types of offenses (status, misdemeanor, & felony) resulting
in out-of-home placement than boys. However, boys had higher percentages of all three
offense categories resulting in secure placement and TYC commitment. Table 8 provides
an overview of the crosstab analysis of offense categories by gender and placement type
for youth ordered to out-of-home placement.
Table 8 Crosstab analysis of offense categories for placement type for youth ordered to
out-of-home placement (n =17,569).
Detention
Female (n =
3,955)
Status
Misd.
Felony
χ2
Male (n =
13,614)
Status
Misd.

13.4
68.5
16.7
12.07**

Non-Secure

Secure

TYC

4.9
10.0
2.8
135.78*

0.0
3.1
0.3
30.04*

0.6
0.8
0.7
43.41*

0.1
3.7

6.1
12.2

2.2
2.2

10.5
53.1
89

Felony

30.7
1.9
6.7
4.1
χ
143.46*
76.40*
715.22*
492.51*
Note: More than one type of placement is possible therefore the percentages across
categories may not equal 100%.
*p < .0001; ** p<.01
2

Additional crosstab analysis was conducted to evaluate specific offense attributes
identified in the literature as key distinguishing features of delinquent behavior between
the female and male juvenile offender. Analysis within the Bootstrap variable revealed
traditional bootstrap level offenses (status offenses and contempt of court) accounted for
higher percentages of detention (5.3%) and non-secure (.4%) placements for girls than
boys. For non-secure placements, the percentage of girls placed for Violation of
Probation (VOP) was over five percent greater (7.3%) than for boys placed for VOP
(2.5%). However, for secure placements, VOP accounted for over seven percent more for
boys (9.5%) than for their female counterparts (2.4%). Although boys had a higher
percentage of VOPs that accounted for TYC commitment (3.9%) than girls (1.2%), it
should be noted that the percent of VOP for girls accounted for the highest percentage of
female commitments to TYC.
Analysis of the Victim composite variable revealed that for detention placements,
girls had greater percentages across all three victim categories than boys. More
specifically, girls had greater percentages of domestic victims across all three county
based placements (Detention, Non-Secure, & Secure) than boys. There was no difference
between domestic victims and gender for TYC commitments. Public servants as victims

90

remained relatively equitable across genders and across placement type. Table 9 provides
an overview of the offense composites by gender and placement type.

Table 9 Crosstab analysis of offense composites for placement type for youth ordered to
out-of-home placement (n = 17,569).
Offense Category
Female (n =
3,955)
Bootstrap
Status
VOP
Other
2
χ
Victim
Domestic
Other

Detention

Non-Secure

Secure

TYC

5.3
18.2
74.9
5.43

0.4
7.3
10.0
284.93*

0.0
2.4
75.8
238.52*

0.0
1.2
0.9
75.91*

8.2
17.3

0.6
2.5

0.2
0.2

0.0
0.2

91

Public
Nonassaultive
χ2
Male (n =
13,614)
Bootstrap
Status
VOP
Other
χ2
Victim
Domestic
Other
Public
Nonassaultive
χ2
*p < .0001; **p < .01

1.8
71.3

0.4
14.2

0.0
3.1

0.1
1.8

10.91*

35.13*

22.30*

20.68*

1.8
20.0
72.4
78.42*

0.0
2.5
3.2
284.93*

0.0
9.5
15.5
704.17*

0.0
3.9
4.6
432.41*

0.2
0.5
0.0
5.1

0.1
18.7
0.2
22.9

0.0
0.4
0.1
7.9

11.03**

186.1*

105.84*

3.0
10.8
1.1
79.3
60.91*

Multivariate Tests for H1
The first mulitivariate analysis for H1 was conducted to test the general influence
of the predictor variables on out-of-home placement on all facility types using Ordinary
OLS regression with gender (0 = male, 1 = female) included in the equation and the
predictor variables regressed on the facility composite (0 = no placement, 1 = detention, 2
= non-secure, 3 = secure, 4 = TYC).

Facility Composite.
The results of the regression analysis indicated that the strongest predictors of
placement (any facility type) were violation of probation (VOP) and probation history.
92

Gender was negatively regressed indicating that being female actually decreased the level
of placement for the juvenile. Mirroring the gender direction, committing a status offense
also indicated a decrease level of placement. Age at referral indicated that the older a
juvenile was at referral the lower the level of placement, while the older the juvenile was
when he or she was first referred to the probation department increased level of
placement. Table 10 provides an overview of the results of the linear regression model
with the predictor variables (including gender) regressed on the facility composite.
Table 10 Analysis of predictor variables regressed on facility composite.
Variable
B
Constant
-.038
Gender
-.120
Referral Age
-.061
Offense
.194
Status
-.199
VOP
.619
Hispanic
.117
Black
.155
Offense
.146
History
Probation
.436
History
First Age
.051
2
Note: R = .439 (p < .0001)

S.E.
.046
.046
.009
.003
.015
.016
.011
.011
.003

Sig.
.406
.000
.000
.000
.000
.000
.000
.000
.000

Beta
-.052
-.080
.279
-.050
.185
.070
.054
.292

.008

.000

.263

.005

.000

.074

To evaluate the influence of the predictor variables on specific types of out-ofhome placement by gender, a second set of multivariate analyses for H1 were conducted.
A dichotomous outcome variable was created for each facility type and coded as either no
placement (0), or placement (1). In the case of a dichotomous outcome variable, binary
logistic regression is preferred and was used for the last four tests of H1.
93

Detention.
Analysis conducted on the predictor variables regressed on detention indicated
that as the boys in the sample got older, they were more likely to be detained. However,
age at referral was not a significant predictor of detention for girls. For each increase in
offense severity, the likelihood of detention for girls (Exp B = 2.132) was greater than for
boys (Exp B = 1.609). Girls with a probation and offense history had a slightly higher
likelihood of being detained than boys with probation and offense history. Having a status
offense was negatively regressed for both genders indicating that committing a status
offense decreased the likelihood of detention. However, the influence of a status offenses
and likelihood of detention was lower for boys (Exp B = 0.350) than for girls (Exp B =
0.514). For boys, a status offense decreased the odds of detention to 1/3 that of nonstatus offenses. However, for girls, a status offense decreased the odds of detention to
only ½ that of non-status offenses. Table 11 provides an overview of the regression
analysis for gender and detention.

94

Table 11 Analysis of predictor variables regressed on detention.
Variable
B
S.E.
Wald
DF
Female
Referral Age
-.053
.031
2.897
1
Offense
.757
.020
1396.163
1
Status
-.665
.080
68.853
1
VOP
1.328
.090
215.276
1
Hispanic
.547
.059
85.471
1
Black
.285
.060
22.400
1
Offense History
.408
.062
43.555
1
Probation History
.301
.024
161.393
1
First Age
.014
.030
.217
1
Constant
-2.664
.269
98.236
1
Male
Referral Age
.039
.017
5.487
1
Offense
.475
.009
2509.847
1
Status
-1.050
.073
209.449
1
VOP
1.201
.051
552.554
1
Hispanic
.664
.038
309.735
1
Black
.555
.037
224.058
1
Offense History
.182
.027
46.290
1
Probation History
.209
.011
387.376
1
First Age
-.040
.015
6.883
1
Constant
-2.452
.155
249.131
1
2
2
Notes: Male R = .222 (p < .0001); Female R = .228 (p < .0001)

Sig.

Exp (B)

.089
.000
.000
.000
.000
.000
.000
.000
.642
.000

0.948
2.132
0.514
3.772
1.727
1.329
1.504
1.351
1.014
0.070

.019
.000
.000
.000
.000
.000
.000
.000
.009
.000

1.040
1.609
0.350
3.322
1.943
1.742
1.200
1.233
0.960
0.086

Non-secure.
Analysis conducted on the predictor variables regressed on non-secure out-ofhome placement indicated that for both genders, the age coefficient is negative, indicating
that the older a juvenile was at referral, the less likely they were to be placed in a nonsecure placement despite gender. The regression analysis revealed further that having a
probation history had an opposite effect by gender. For each previous probation the odds
of out-of-home placement in a non-secure facility increased for girls by almost two (Exp
B = 1.631). However, having a history of probation decreased the odds of out-of-home
95

placement in a non-secure facility for boys (Exp B = 0.699). The status offense
coefficient was not a significant predictor of non-secure placement for boys, and was
negative for girls, indicating that committing a status offense decreased the odds of a girl
being placed in a non-secure facility. There was virtually no difference by gender in the
odds of non-secure placement by offense level. Table 12 provides an overview of the
binary regression analysis of the predictor variables on non-secure placement.
Table 12 Analysis of predictor variables regressed on non-secure placement.
Variable
B
S.E.
Wald
DF
Female
Referral Age
-.092
.048
3.663
1
Offense
.379
.031
153.706
1
Status
-1.037
.277
14.031
1
VOP
1.562
.122
163.987
1
Hispanic
-.206
.116
3.132
1
Black
.127
.111
1.291
1
Offense History
.269
.029
87.023
1
Probation History
.489
.069
50.273
1
First Age
-.025
.044
.331
1
Constant
-2.831
.526
29.017
1
Male
Referral Age
-.083
.036
5.407
1
Offense
.412
.026
249.370
1
Status
-.181
.302
.360
1
VOP
2.191
.123
317.306
1
Hispanic
.030
.105
.082
1
Black
-.019
.106
.033
1
Offense History
.260
.021
154.768
1
Probation History
-.358
.060
35.226
1
First Age
-.091
.032
8.012
1
Constant
-3.287
.425
59.801
1
2
2
Notes: Male R = .035 (p < .0001); Female R = .084 (p < .0001)
Secure.

96

Sig.

Exp (B)

.056
.000
.000
.000
.077
.256
.000
.000
.565
.000

0.912
1.460
0.354
4.771
0.814
1.135
1.309
1.631
0.975
0.059

.020
.000
.548
.000
.774
.855
.000
.000
.005
.000

0.920
1.509
0.834
8.947
1.031
1.031
1.297
0.699
0.913
0.037

Analysis of the predictor variables on secure out-of-home placement revealed that
all the predictor variables were significant for boys and only four were significant for
girls. Increase in the offense severity by a female juvenile increased her odds of being
placed in a secure facility greater (Exp B = 1.899) than that of her male counterpart (Exp
B = 1.192). Additionally, female offenders charged with a violation of probation had a
much greater likelihood of secure out-of-home placement (Exp B = 26.204) than males
(Exp B = 2.336). There was virtually no difference in the likelihood of secure placement
by gender for offenders with a history of probation. Table 13 provides an overview of the
binary regression analysis for secure out-of-home placement by gender.
Table 13 Analysis of predictor variables regressed on secure placement.
Variable
Male
Referral Age
Offense
Status
VOP
Hispanic
Black
Offense History
Probation History
First Age
Constant
Female
Referral Age
Offense
Status
VOP
Hispanic
Black
Offense History
Probation History
First Age

B

S.E.

Wald

DF

Sig.

Exp (B)

-.135
.175
-2.564
.848
.232
.184
.198
.734
.136
-3.592

.022
.013
.359
.058
.058
.059
.012
.027
.019
.250

37.993
177.466
51.731
217.009
16.120
9.853
287.366
718.171
50.880
206.303

1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1

.000
.000
.000
.000
.000
.002
.000
.000
.000
.000

.874
1.192
.077
2.336
1.261
1.202
2.084
1.219
1.146
.028

.039
.642
-14.896
3.266
.447
.564
.213
.199
-.182

.091
.078
1006.366
.313
.293
.294
.124
.055
.081

.187
69.969
.000
109.039
2.305
3.711
15.076
2.597
5.044

1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1

.666
.000
.988
.000
.054
.129
.107
.000
.025

1.040
1.899
.000
26.204
1.563
1.758
1.237
1.221
.834

97

Constant
-6.127
1.209
25.685
1
2
2
Notes: Male R = .137 (p < .0001); Female R = .034 (p < .0001)

.000

.002

TYC Commitment.
Analysis of the predictor variables on commitment to the state operated Texas
Youth Commission (TYC) indicated that there was virtually no difference among the
predictor variables by gender, with slight gender variability for offense severity and
violations of probation. An increase in the offense severity increased the odds of being
committed to TYC by a little more than two (Exp B =2.224) for girls and a little less than
2 (Exp B = 1.958) for boys. Receiving a violation of probation increased the odds of TYC
commitment by more than eight (Exp B 8.327) for girls and (Exp B 7.778) for boys. Table
14 provides an overview of the results of the binary regression analysis for TYC
commitment by gender.
Table 14 Analysis of predictor variables regressed on TYC commitment.
Variable
Male
Referral Age
Offense
Status
VOP
Hispanic
Black
Offense History
Probation History
First Age
Constant
Female
Referral Age
Offense
Status
VOP

B

S.E.

Wald

DF

Sig.

Exp (B)

.030
.672
-15.431
2.051
2.05
2.46
.433
.596
-.018
-8.276

.034
.028
921.140
.117
.106
.105
.019
.035
.027
.483

.794
596.648
.000
306.889
3.759
5.420
518.287
281.718
.433
293.066

1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1

.373
.000
.987
.000
.053
.020
.000
.000
.511
.000

1.030
1.958
0.000
7.778
1.228
1.278
1.541
1.814
0.982
0.000

.115
.799
-13.667
2.125

.119
.100
973.094
.405

.938
63.530
.000
27.563

1
1
1
1

.333
.000
.989
.000

1.122
2.224
0.000
8.371

98

Hispanic
-.032
.337
.009
1
Black
-.199
.344
.333
1
Offense History
.452
.068
44.009
1
Probation History
.715
.127
31.683
1
First Age
-.269
.102
6.983
1
Constant
-7.376
1.740
17.965
1
2
2
Notes: Male R = .114 (p < .0001); Female R = .030 (p < .0001)

.924
.564
.000
.000
.008
.000

0.968
0.820
1.571
2.043
0.764
0.001

Test for Multicollinearity.
To test for potential problems with multicollinearity, an inter-correlational
analysis was conducted using Spearman’s Rho. Table 15 presents the results of the
analysis. The findings indicate that the strongest correlation occurs between probation
history and commitment to TYC. However, a majority of the correlations are below .20,
therefore the likelihood of multicollinearity is low.

99

Table 15 Inter-correlation matrix for out-of-home placement for female and male
juveniles.
Variable
Gender
Age
Race

Demographics
Gende
Age
Race
r
-.021* .032*
.036*

Offense
Level Status VOP
-.211*

.097*

-.037* .028*
.011*** -.100

Level

-.107
*

Status

-.072
*
.164*
-.051
*
-.255
*
-.107
*

VOP
Level

History
Level Prob. First
Age
-.187 -.154 .070*
*
*
.236* .201* .683*
.092* .079* .109*
-.007
-.101
*
.488*

-.036
*
-.114
*
.506*
.683*

Prob.
Age
*p < .0001; **p < .01; ***p < .05

-.021
*
.071*
-.096
*
-.291
*
-.248

Descriptive Analysis of Mental Health Need Variables
Consistent with existing literature on prevalence rates of mental health disorders
and gender, across all subscales girls maintained higher percentages of need (Cautions
and Warnings) as measured by the mental health screening instrument, Maysi-2. It
should be noted that although the Thought (Disturbances) scale was determined by the
developers an invalid screening measure for girls. Therefore, data on that scale cannot be
used to analyze differences on dispositions by gender. However, the frequency
distribution is included as an informational reference to consider within the discussion
section of this study. Table 16 provides an overview of the Maysi-2 cutoff scores by
subscale and cutoff indicating the need for further mental health assessment by gender.

100

Table 16 Percent of Maysi-2 cutoff scores by subscale and referrals for assessment by
gender (n = 34,222).
Drug
Female (n = 10,317)
Caution
9.9
Warning
2.3
Male (n = 23,900)
Caution
10.4
Warning
2.0
χ2
6.47***
*p < .0001; ***p<.05

Angry

Depressed

Somatic

Suicide

Thought

27.2
10.9

26.3
10.9

39.0
6.5

5.9
14.1

21.7
16.4

20.3
6.8
428.28*

19.0
4.7
710.24*

29.0
3.6
553.10*

3.5
5.9
763.09*

18.7
11.3
139.93*

The combination and number of warning and cautions a youth received on the
Maysi – 2 results in the recommended action to include a referral for a mental health
assessment. The cutoffs set by TJPC for a mental health assessment referral include two
or more warnings or four or more cautions across any of the subscales, or a warning on
the suicide ideation subscale (Schwank et al., 2003). Of the youth who were administered
the Maysi-2, more girls (16.8%) met the cutoff thresholds indicating a need for referral to
a mental health professional for assessment than boys (10.0%). Girls also had a higher
mean number of thresholds across the subscales (.17) than boys (.10) (t = -16.35, p
<.0001). Table 17 provides a description of the mental health assessment cutoffs by
gender based on the Maysi-2.
Table 17 Maysi-2 scores meeting cutoff criteria by gender (n = 34,222).
Assessment
Female
Male
*p < .0001

N

% Cutoff

Mean

SD

10,317
23,900

16.8
10.0

.17
.10

.37
.30

101

χ2
314.90*

Although girls reported a higher mean of traumatic experiences (1.47) than boys
(1.12) on the Maysi-2, the percentages of traumatic experiences indicated that males
reported slightly higher rates of one or two experiences. However, for youth who
reported four or more traumatic experiences, girls reporting significantly higher
percentage points of traumatic experiences boys. More specifically, the female percentage
of five or more experiences was over four times higher (4.1%) than their male
counterparts (.9%), χ2, (1), 331.258, p < .0001. Table 18 provides an overview of the
percentage of traumatic experiences reported on the Maysi-2 by gender.
Table 18 Percent of reported Traumatic Experiences by gender (n = 34,222).
Trauma
Female
Male
*p < .0001

n

1

2

3

4

5

10,317
23,900

21.6
25.5

14.9
17.1

10.5
10.2

6.8
4.3

4.1
.9

r
.018**

For those youth referred during the sample period who received a mental health
assessment, girls received a higher percentage of diagnoses related to internalizing
behavior such as depression and anxiety while boys received higher percentages of
externalizing disorders such as conduct and attention deficit hyperactivity (ADHD).
Specifically, girls diagnosed with internalizing disorders were almost two times greater
than the likelihood among their male counterparts. Table 19 provides the frequency
distribution of external and internal diagnoses by gender.
Table 19 Percent external and internal diagnoses by gender (n = 9,900).
Composite
Externalizing
Internalizing

Female (n =
1,943)
61.1
40.2

Male (n =
7,957)
75.5
19.6

102

χ2
197.76*
383.94*

Note: Because the Externalizing and Internalizing composite measures are not inclusive
of all possible mental health diagnoses, the percentages across categories may not equal
100%.
*p < .0001
Additional analysis determined that there were some significant gender
differences between specific internalizing and externalizing diagnoses. Girls received
over double the percentage rate of diagnoses related to depression (14.2%) and anxiety
(7.9%) than boys (6.6% and 3.5% respectively), and almost triple the percentage for
bipolar disorder (11.6% girls; 4.7% boys). With the exception of oppositional defiant
disorder (ODD), the differences between diagnoses and gender were significant (p < .
0001). Table 20 provides an overview of the frequency distribution of specific mental
health diagnoses by gender.
Table 20 Gender distribution of mental health diagnoses by percent (n = 9,900).
Composite
Depression
Anxiety
Adjustment
Conduct
ODD
ADHD
Disruptive
Bipolar
*p < .0001

Female (n =
1,943)
14.2
7.9
21.9
13.5
16.3
11.8
24.5
11.6

Male (n =
7,957)
6.6
3.5
18.1
19.4
17.1
19.3
32.0
4.7

χ2
123.14*
70.54*
21.61*
36.84*
0.64
60.20*
41.36*
128.90*

Over sixty-two percent (n = 6,213) of both genders who were assessed were
assigned more than one diagnosis. A slightly higher percentage of boys (63.81%) than
girls (58.47%) had multiple diagnoses, χ2, (1), 19.047, p<.0001. For those with multiple
diagnoses, the mean number of diagnoses for both genders was 2.6 with boys receiving a
higher percentage of co-occurring external and substance abuse diagnoses, and girls
receiving double the percentage of co-occurring internal diagnoses. Table 21 provides an
103

overview of co-occurring diagnoses for youth in the sample who had multiple diagnoses
by diagnostic category and gender.
Table 21 Percent co-occurring disorders by diagnostic categories by gender (n = 6,213).
Female (n =
1,136)
Male (n =
5,077)
χ2
*p < .0001

Substance
57.13

External
74.38

Internal
53.70

Mean
2.6

SD
.97

71.38

87.02

25.03

2.6

.99

92.98*

148.14*

380.32*

Similar to the findings of previous prevalence studies, girls were assigned higher
percentages of specific internalizing disorders such as depression and anxiety disorders,
while boys had higher percentages of specific externalizing disorders such as ADHD and
conduct disorder. Table 22 provides an overview of the rate of co-morbidity by disorder
composite and by gender.
Table 22 Co-occurring disorders by mental health diagnoses by gender (n = 6,213).

Female (n =
1,136)
Bipolar
Depression
Anxiety
ADHD
Conduct
ODD
Adjustment
Disruptive
Male (n =
5,077)
Bipolar
Depression
Anxiety
ADHD
Conduct
ODD

%

χ2

Mean
Diagnoses

SD

t

13.1
18.3
12.6
17.1
16.8
21.7
29.3
27.0

91.264*
101.834
95.911*
39.740*
14.926*
0.189
27.934*
30.458*

.12
.14
.08
.12
.14
.16
.24
.25

.32
.35
.27
.32
.34
.37
.46
.43

-11.34*
-11.17*
-8.32*
7.78*
6.08*
0.82
-4.61*
6.44*

5.3
8.3
4.8
26.4
21.0
22.3

91.264*
101.834
95.911*
39.740*
14.926*
.189

.05
.07
.04
.19
.19
.17

.21
.25
.19
.40
.40
.38

-11.34*
-11.17*
-8.32*
7.78*
6.08*
0.82

104

Adjustment
Disruptive
*p < .0001

22.4
36.6

27.934*
30.458*

.20
.32

.41
.47

-4.61*
6.44*

Bivariate Tests for H2
The next series of analyses evaluated the variability between mental health need
and offense. The first analysis evaluated the variability of mean scores that fell within
the warning range on the Maysi-2 between juveniles in out-of-home placement and those
in the community by offense level and placement type. With the exception of
misdemeanor juveniles in secure placement, juveniles in out-of-home placement (across
all three county placement types and TYC commitment) had higher mean scores within
the warning range on the Maysi-2 than juveniles in the community. For status offenders,
the juveniles in non-secure placement had the largest variance in mean warning scores
(.37) when compared to juveniles in the community. For both misdemeanor and felony
offenders, TYC accounted for the largest variability with a .31 and .16 difference in mean
scores respectively. Juveniles in secure out-of-home placement had the smallest variation
of mean warning scores when compared to juveniles in the community. Table 23
provides an overview of the mean Maysi-2 warning differences between juveniles in the
community and those in out-of-home placement by offense level and placement type.
Table 23 Mean warnings across Maysi-2 subscales by placement (n = 34,222).
Maysi-2 Warnings
Status (n =
1,803)
Detention
Non-Secure
Secure
TYC
Misd. (n =

Mean
(no
placement)

Mean
(placement)

df

t

463
.28
.34
.36
.35

.49
.71
.37
.50

8.44*
6.26*
.34
3.16*
1736

105

5,226)
Detention
Non-Secure
Secure
TYC
Felony (n =
2,871)
Detention
Non-Secure
Secure
TYC
*p < .0001

.25
.30
.30
.30

.37
.48
.38
.61

11.58*
6.55
4.49*
7.46*
654

.27
.33
.34
.32

.37
.47
.33
.48

5.06*
3.31
-.40
4.82*

Further analysis of the Maysi-2 scores revealed that juveniles across all placement
types had higher percentages of traumatic experiences than those with no trauma history.
However, the variance of reported trauma history was only statistically significant for all
levels of offenders in detention, status and misdemeanor offenders in non-secure, and
misdemeanor and felony offenders in secure placements. Table 24 presents the overview
of traumatic experiences by offense level and placement type.

Table 24 Percentage of traumatic experiences reported on the Maysi-2 by placement type
(n = 34,222).
Maysi-2 Trauma
Scale
Status (n =
5,907)
Trauma No
Trauma Yes
χ2
Misd. (n =
21,321)
Trauma No
Trauma Yes
χ2
Felony (n =
6,978)
Trauma No

Detention

Non-Secure

Secure

TYC

2.0
3.4
56.52*

.2
.4
4.73***

1.1
1.4
0.043

0.4
0.6
1.17

11.3
17.6
63.76*

.9
1.6
9.53**

2.1
3.1
4.10***

0.4
0.6
0.15

1.2

0.7

5.4

.4
106

Trauma Yes
8.6
2
χ
7.66*
*p < .0001; **p < .01; ***p <.05

.7
0.332

1.6
3.78***

1.0
0.07

Analysis of scores on the traumatic experiences scale of the Maysi-2 between
juveniles in out-of-home placement and those in the community revealed that, with the
exception of felony offenders in secure placement, juveniles in any type of out-of-home
placement had larger mean numbers of traumatic experiences than youth who remained
in the community. For status and misdemeanor offenders the largest mean difference
between juveniles in out-of-home placement and those in the community occurred with
youth in non-secure facilities. For felony offenders, the largest mean difference occurred
between youth in detention and in the community. For status and felony offenders,
juveniles in secure placement had lower mean scores on the traumatic experiences scale
than similar youth in the community. Table 25 provides an overview of the mean
differences in trauma scores for youth in out-of-home placement and youth in the
community by offense level and placement type.

Table 25 Mean number of traumatic experiences reported on the Maysi-2 by placement
type (n = 34,222).
Maysi- 2 Trauma
Scale
Status (n = 5,907)
Detention
Non-Secure
Secure
TYC
Misd. (n = 21,321)
Detention

Mean
(no
placement)

Mean
(placement)

df

t

5904
1.13
1.20
1.24
1.21

1.40
1.75
1.04
1.27

1.05

1.27

6.64*
5.59*
-3.85*
.77
21,313

107

12.89*

Non-Secure
1.13
Secure
1.14
TYC
1.15
Felony (n = 6,978)
Detention
1.09
Non-Secure
1.20
Secure
1.22
TYC
1.20
*p < .0001; **p < .01; ***p <.05

1.52
1.22
1.46

8.87*
2.38***
4.39*
6,975

1.27
1.28
1.17
1.35

5.37*
3.33**
-1.03
2.69**

The next set of analyses evaluated the variability of psychiatric diagnoses among
youth who received a mental health assessment (n = 9,900) by offense level and
placement type. Although juveniles in out-of-home placement had higher percentages of
diagnoses than no disorders, the findings were only statistically significant for detention
status offenders, felony offenders in non-secure placement, all youth in secure facilities,
and felony offenders committed to TYC. Secure placement accounted for the largest
concentration of youth who had received a mental health assessment having a mental
health need. Of the youth in secure placement, 7.3% were status offenders, 14. 5% were
misdemeanor youth, and 7.8 were felony offenders. Detention had the second highest
percentage of status offenders with a diagnosed mental health disorder (12.4%). For
youth in non-secure out-of-home placement, only felony youth had a statistically
significant representation with 2.5% of those in non-secure who had received a mental
health assessment being assigned a psychiatric diagnosis. Table 26 provides an overview
of the percent of juveniles who received a mental health diagnosis by offense level and
placement type.
Table 26 Percent assessed with at least one diagnosis and no diagnosis by placement
type (n = 9,900).
MH Assessment
Status (n =
1,803)

Detention

Non-Secure

108

Secure

TYC

No Diagnosis
Diagnosis
χ2
Misd. (n =
5,226)
No Diagnosis
Diagnosis
2
χ
Felony (n =
2,871)
No Diagnosis
Diagnosis
χ2
*p < .0001

0.1
12.4
20.50*

0.0
1.8
2.67

0.0
7.3
20.30*

0.0
2.2
3.35

2.7
41.3
1.71

0.4
6.2
0.00

0.5
14.5
34.14*

0.2
2.2
0.03

1.6
23.3
0.01

0.3
2.5
11.98*

0.2
7.8
31.44*

0.0
4.2
12.23*

Analysis on co-occurring diagnoses for youth in out-of-home placement
compared to youth who remained in the community revealed that, with a few exceptions,
juveniles in out-of-home placement had higher mean numbers of diagnoses than youth
who remained in the community. The largest mean number of diagnoses occurred with
status offenders placed in secure facilities, while the lowest mean occurred with
misdemeanor youth committed to the state operated TYC. For status offenders, the largest
variance between juveniles in placement versus youth who remained in the community
occurred with youth in secure placement. For misdemeanor offenders, the greatest
difference occurred between juveniles in secure placement versus those who remained in
the community. For felony youth, the mean difference between non-secure (.41) and
secure (.40) were similar but in opposite directions. Felony youth in non-secure
placements had a higher mean than similar youth in the community, with the reverse for
felony youth secure placement when compared to similar juveniles the community. Table
27 provides an overview of the distribution of diagnoses for juveniles assessed by
placement type and offense level.

109

Table 27 Mean number of diagnoses for juveniles assessed by placement type and
offense level (n = 9,900).
Comorbid Composite
Status (n =
1,803)
Detention
Non-Secure
Secure
TYC
Misd. (n =
5,226)
Detention
Non-Secure
Secure
TYC
Felony (n =
2,871)
Detention
Non-Secure
Secure
TYC
*p < .0001; **p < .01

Mean
(no
placement)

Mean
(placement)

df

t

1801
2.11
2.35
2.19
2.36

2.48
2.51
2.64
2.45

5.66*
1.51
7.33*
1.04
5224

1.99
1.90
1.74
1.90

1.85
1.71
2.22
1.43

-3.15**
-4.08*
14.17*
-6.11*
2869

2.12
1.94
1.79
1.86

1.86
1.53
2.19
2.14

-4.05*
-5.57*
8.44*
4.65*

Multivariate Tests for H2
Similar to the initial test for H1, the analysis for H2 was conducted to analyze the
general influence of the predictor variables and mental health need on out-of-home
placement for all facility types. Using OLS regression and binary logistic regression,
multivariate tests for H2 were conducted on both the Maysi-2 (n = 34,222) and the
Assessment (n = 9,900) subsamples with the predictor variables regressed on the facility
composite (0 = no placement, 1 = detention, 2 = non-secure, 3 = secure, 4 = TYC).
Maysi – 2.
OLS regression analysis of the juveniles who received a mental health screening
with the Maysi-2 sample indicated that all of the predictor variables were statistically

110

significant. Violation of probation, probation history, and offense level were the strongest
predictors of the level of out-of-home placement. Of the youth who were administered
the Maysi-2, the older they were at the target referral, the odds of a more severe
placement type decreased. However the older the juvenile was the first time they were
referred to the department, the odds of a more severe facility type increased. Scores on
both the trauma scale and within the warning cutoffs of the Maysi-2 increase the odds of
a more severe out-of-home placement. Table 28 provides an overview of the results of
the regression analysis of predictor variables as regressed on the facility composite scale
for Maysi- 2.
Table 28 Analysis of predictor variables regressed on facility composite for Maysi-2 (n =
34,222).
Variable
B
Constant
-.159
Referral Age
-.057
Offense
.204
Status
-.245
VOP
.717
Hispanic
.150
Black
.184
Offense History
.142
Probation History
.405
First Age
.050
Trauma
.034
Warning
.047
2
Note: R = .422 (p < .0001)

S.E.
.055
.006
.003
.017
.018
.012
.012
.004
.009
.005
.004
.007

Sig.
.004
.000
.000
.000
.000
.000
.000
.000
.000
.000
.000
.000

Beta
-.069
.289
-.063
2.13
.068
.079
.257
.278
.068
.040
.029

Assessment.
OLS regression analysis of the juveniles who received a mental health assessment
indicated that four of the predictor variables (Referral age, Hispanic, Black, and
Externalizing) were not statistically significant. For youth who received a mental health
assessment, the strongest predictors of out-of-home placement were probation history and

111

offense severity. Having any mental health diagnosis increased the likelihood and level
of severity of out-of-home placement while having either an externalizing or internalizing
diagnosis, decreased the odds of a juvenile being placed in out-of-home placement. Table
29 presents the findings from the regression analysis on facility composite for youth who
received a mental health assessment.
Table 29 Analysis of predictor variables regressed on facility composite for Assessment
(n = 9,900).
Variable
B
Constant
-.707
Referral Age
.018
Offense
.168
Status
-.530
VOP
.602
Hispanic
-.021
Black
.026
Offense History
.110
Probation History
.305
First Age
.059
Diagnosis(es)
.162
Externalizing
-.017
Internalizing
-.128
2
Note: R = .294 (p < .0001)

S.E.
.132
.011
.007
.076
.031
.030
.030
.006
.014
.010
.011
.020
.024

Sig.
.000
.105
.000
.000
.000
.487
.401
.000
.000
.000
.000
.402
.000

Beta
.020
.249
-.060
.219
-.009
.010
.207
.251
.073
.158
-.008
-.051

Multivariate Tests for H3
The final set of multivariate analyses examined out-of-home placement by gender
and mental health need. Similar to the analyses conducted for H1 and H2, the tests for H3
were conducted on both the Maysi-2 and the Assessment subsamples to first establish the
general influence of mental health need and gender on out-of-home placement, and then
to examine the influence of the predictor variables by specific facility type and gender.
The examination of the general influence of the predictor variables on out-of-home
placement for all facility types utilized a OLS regression model with gender (0 = male, 1

112

= female) included in the equation and the predictor variables regressed on facility
composite (0 = no placement, 1 = detention, 2 = non-secure, 3 = secure, 4 = TYC).
The evaluation of the influence of the predictor variables on specific types of out-ofhome placement by gender and mental health need required separate female and male
models by level of mental health need (Maysi-2; Assessment). A dichotomous outcome
variable was created for each facility type and coded as either no placement (0), or
placement (1), and was tested by level of mental health need by gender for each facility
type. In the case of a dichotomous outcome variable, binary logistic regression is
preferred and was used for the last series tests of H3.
Maysi-2.
Facility Composite.
Analysis of the predictor variables regressed on facility composite for juveniles
who received a mental health screening with the Maysi-2 (n = 34,222) indicated that all
predictor variables were statistically significant. OLS regression analysis revealed that
the strongest predictors of level of placement were a score on the trauma scale, offense
severity, age at first referral, and probation history. Gender was negatively related
indicating that being female actually decreased a juvenile's the odds of being placed in a
higher level out-of-home. Table 30 provides an overview of the results of the OLS
regression model with the predictor variables (including gender) regressed on the facility
composite for Maysi-2.

113

Table 30 Analysis of predictor variables regressed on facility composite for Maysi-2.
Variable
B
Constant
-.087
Gender
-.152
Referral Age
-.056
Offense
.195
Status
-.229
VOP
.709
Hispanic
.145
Black
.181
Offense History
.137
Probation History
.401
First Age
.049
Trauma
.039
Warning
.043
2
Note: R = .425 (p < .0001)

S.E.
.056
.010
.006
.003
.017
.018
.012
.012
.004
.009
.005
.004
.007

Sig.
.117
.000
.000
.000
.000
.000
.000
.000
.000
.000
.000
.000
.000

Beta
-.062
-.068
.269
-.059
.211
.064
.078
.046
.026
.248
.275
.067

Detention.
Analysis of the predictor variables for youth who received a Maysi-2 screening
indicated that there were some gender differences when regressed on detention. As the
age at referral for a male juvenile offender increases, his odds of being detained increase.
However, for girls, as their age at referral increases, their odds of being detained
decrease. Status offenses were negatively related to outcome for both genders indicating
that committing a status offense decreased the likelihood of a juvenile being detained,
despite gender. However for a violation of probation, a girl’s chance of being detained
almost doubled (Exp B = 6.177) that of a boy’s (Exp B = 3.967). As offense severity
increased a girl’s odds of being detained increased slightly higher (Exp B = 1.975) than a
boy’s (Exp B = 1.553). Scoring in the warning cutoffs on the Maysi-2 was not found to be
statistically significant in predicting detention for girls. For boys, however, a positive
warning cutoff score increased the odds of being detained by a little more than one (Exp
B = 1.163. For each traumatic experience identified on the trauma scale of the Maysi-2,

114

the likelihood of detention was higher for girls than for boys. Table 31 provides an
overview of the binary logistic regression analysis on detention for youth screened by the
Maysi-2.
Table 31 Analysis of predictor variables regressed on detention for Maysi-2 and gender.
Variable
B
S.E.
Wald
DF
Female
Referral Age
-.067
.034
3.860
1
Offense
.681
.022
936.296
1
Status
-.943
.082
130.844
1
VOP
1.821
.112
263.344
1
Hispanic
.443
.064
48.049
1
Black
.695
.063
121.881
1
Offense History
.232
.025
87.272
1
Probation History
.148
.065
5.219
1
First Age
.008
.032
.070
1
Trauma
.229
.017
183.657
1
Warning
.005
.035
.017
1
Constant
-2.271
.296
58.688
1
Male
Referral Age
.063
.018
12.204
1
Offense
.441
.010 1774.313
1
Status
-1.253
.073
292.120
1
VOP
1.378
.056
597.259
1
Hispanic
.600
.039
237.663
1
Black
.719
.040
327.808
1
Offense History
.158
.011
204.334
1
Probation History
.080
.027
8.726
1
First Age
-.047
.016
8.293
1
Trauma
.061
.013
21.057
1
Warning
.151
.024
38.237
1
Constant
-2.435
.172
200.211
1
Notes: Male R2 = .203 (p < .0001); Female R2 = .243 (p < .0001)

Sig.

Exp (B)

.049
.000
.000
.000
.000
.000
.000
.022
.791
.000
.895
.000

0.935
1.975
0.389
6.177
1.557
2.004
1.261
1.159
1.009
1.257
1.005
0.103

.000
.000
.000
.000
.000
.000
.000
.003
.004
.000
.000
.000

1.065
1.553
0.286
3.967
1.822
2.052
1.171
1.083
0.954
1.063
1.163
0.088

Non-secure.
Analysis of the predictor variables for non-secure placement for youth who
received a Maysi-2 screening indicated that age was negatively related for both genders,
indicating that as age at referral increased, the likelihood of being placed in a non-secure
placement decreased, despite gender and mental health need. Offense severity and
115

offense history increased the likelihood of placement in a non-secure placement at
virtually the same rate for both genders. While a violation of probation increased the odds
of out-of-home non-secure placement at almost double the amount for boys (Exp B =
8.636) than girls (Exp B = 4.754), probation history increased the odds of non-secure
placement by over double the amount for girls (Exp B = 1.462) than boys (Exp B = .668).
Neither Maysi-2 measure of mental health need (Trauma & Warning) was found to be a
statistically significant predictor of placement in a non-secure facility for boys. For girls,
however, a positive score on either scale increased the odds of out-of-home placement in
a non-secure facility. Table 32 presents the results of the binary regression analysis.
Table 32 Analysis of predictor variables regressed on non-secure for Maysi-2.
Variable
Male
Referral Age
Offense
Status
VOP
Hispanic
Black
Offense History
Probation History
First Age
Trauma
Warning
Constant
Female
Referral Age
Offense
Status
VOP
Hispanic
Black
Offense History
Probation History
First Age
Trauma
Warning
Constant

B

S.E.

Wald

DF

Sig.

Exp (B)

-.075
.381
-.285
2.156
.033
-.027
.242
-.403
-.094
.020
.046
-3.126

.036
.027
.302
.126
.106
.107
.021
.062
.032
.033
.052
.439

4.300
201.1784
.889
293.057
.097
.066
131.135
42.827
8.520
.371
.775
50.809

1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1

.038
.000
.346
.000
.755
.798
.000
.000
.004
.543
.379
.000

0.928
1.464
0.752
8.636
1.033
0.973
1.274
0.668
0.910
1.021
1.047
0.044

-.127
.299
-1.238
1.559
-.062
.210
.241
.380
.009
.206
.153
-2.787

.046
.032
.288
.128
.119
.113
.029
.070
.045
.028
.048
.548

6.607
88.018
18.485
148.303
.273
3.436
64.104
29.233
.042
55.946
10.112
25.867

1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1

.010
.000
.000
.000
.601
.064
.000
.000
.837
.000
.001
.000

0.881
1.348
0.290
4.754
0.940
1.234
1.272
1.462
1.009
1.228
1.165
0.062

Notes: Male R2 = .035 (p < .0001); Female R2 = .097 (p < .0001)
116

Secure.
Analysis of the predictor variables on secure out-of-home placement indicated that
only two of the predictor variables for boys were not statistically significant, while five
were not significant for girls. The analysis also revealed that age at referral was not a
significant predictor of secure placement for girls, however for boys, it had a negative
relationahship; indicating that the older the male offender was at referral, the less likely he
was to be placed in secure out-of-home placement. While a violation of probation
increased the odds of secure placement for boys by 2.165, girls experienced over ten times
greater risk of secure out-of-home placement than boys (Exp B = 22.527). None of the
Maysi-2 measures of mental health need were statistically significant for boys. However,
for girls, a positive indicator on the trauma scale increased the risk of placement in a secure
facility (Exp B = 1.217), while a score within the warning cutoff range on Maysi-2
subscales resulted in a decrease in the odds of secure out-of-home placement (Exp B = .
537). The status variable is unreliable due to the small cell size for girls as reflected in the
large score for standardized error. Table 33 presents an overview of the results on the
binary regression analysis of the predictor variables on secure out-of-home placement by
gender for youth who received a mental health screening with the Maysi-2.

117

Table 33 Analysis of predictor variables regressed on secure for Maysi-2 and gender.
Variable
B
S.E.
Wald
DF
Female
Referral Age
.047
.092
.262
1
Offense
.569
.080
50.816
1
Status
-15.261 1030.544
.000
1
VOP
3.115
.314
98.309
1
Hispanic
.529
.297
3.172
1
Black
.554
.295
3.520
1
Offense History
.176
.057
9.465
1
Probation History
.186
.125
2.205
1
First Age
-.189
.083
5.185
1
Trauma
.196
.055
12.716
1
Warning
-.622
.184
11.381
1
Constant
-5.865
1.243
22.249
1
Male
Referral Age
-.124
.022
31.063
1
Offense
.133
.014
95.550
1
Status
-2.685
.357
56.728
1
VOP
.772
.059
173.589
1
Hispanic
.225
.058
14.947
1
Black
.177
.059
8.982
1
Offense History
.179
.012
231.993
1
Probation History
.686
.027
629.203
1
First Age
.133
.019
48.012
1
Trauma
.014
.018
.579
1
Warning
.047
.029
2.577
1
Constant
-3.399
.260
170.846
1
Notes: Male R2 = .135 (p < .0001); Female R2 = .041 (p < .0001)

Sig.

Exp (B)

.609
.000
.988
.000
.075
.061
.002
.138
.023
.000
.001
.000

1.048
1.767
0.000
22.527
1.697
1.740
1.192
1.205
0.828
1.217
0.537
0.003

.000
.000
.000
.000
.000
.003
.000
.000
.000
.447
.108
.000

0.883
1.143
0.068
2.165
1.252
1.193
1.197
1.985
1.142
1.014
1.048
0.033

TYC Commitment.
Analysis of the predictor variables for TYC commitment with youth who had
received a mental health screening indicated that the age at referral was not significant for
either gender and severity of offense and offense history had virtually the same odds of
118

commitment to TYC by gender. Girls with a probation history had a slightly higher
likelihood of TYC commitment (Exp B = 1.971) than their male counter parts (Exp B =
1.771). Age at first referral was not significant for boys. However, for girls, it was
negatively related indicating that the age at first referral had no predictive nature for boys
who had been administered the Maysi-2, however for girls, it indicated that the older the
girl was at her first referral, the less likely she was to be committed to TYC. Both of the
Maysi-2 measures of mental health need were significant for boys with only the trauma
scale being significant for girls. Every positive score falling within warning cutoffs on
the Maysi-2 increased the odds of TYC commitment by 1.206 for boys. Also, for every
report of a traumatic experience on the Maysi-2 for boys, the odds for TYC commitment
increased by 1.089. For girls, the Maysi-2 warning cutoffs held no predictive value.
However, for each increase in a positive report of a traumatic experience on the Maysi-2,
the increased odds of TYC commitment for girls was 1.287. Therefore, girls had a higher
risk of TYC commitment based on reports on the Maysi-2 trauma scale, while boys had a
higher risk of TYC commitment for reports that fell within the warning cutoffs the
Maysi-2. The status variable is unreliable due to the small cell size for girls as reflected
in the large score for standardized error. Table 34 presents the results of the binary
regression analysis of the predictor variables regressed on TYC commitment for the
juveniles who received a mental health screening with the Maysi-2.

119

Table 34 Analysis of predictor variables regressed on TYC for Maysi-2 and gender.
Variable
B
S.E.
Wald
DF
Female
Referral Age
.132
.123
1.150
1
Offense
.779
.103
57.513
1
Status
-13.609
997.258
.000
1
VOP
2.087
.411
25.835
1
Hispanic
.150
.342
.194
1
Black
-.143
.349
.168
1
Offense History
.462
.069
44.571
1
Probation History
.679
.127
28.688
1
First Age
-.255
.103
6.084
1
Trauma
.252
.072
12.243
1
Warning
-.065
.136
.228
1
Constant
-8.220
1.827
20.230
1
Male
Referral Age
.050
.034
2.143
1
Offense
.671
.028
570.404
1
Status
-15.381
948.536
.000
1
VOP
2.041
.119
294.577
1
Hispanic
.219
.107
4.219
1
Black
.232
.106
4.754
1
Offense History
.427
.019
493.571
1
Probation History
.572
.036
255.050
1
First Age
-.021
.027
.603
1
Trauma
.085
.030
8.220
1
Warning
.187
.042
19.711
1
Constant
-8.623
.500
297.032
1
Notes: Male R2 = .123 (p < .0001); Female R2 = .035 (p < .0001)

Sig.

Exp (B)

.284
.000
.989
.000
.660
.682
.000
.000
.014
.000
.633
.000

1.141
2.179
.000
8.060
1.162
.867
1.587
1.971
.775
1.287
.937
.000

.143
.000
.987
.000
.040
.029
.000
.000
.437
.004
.000
.000

1.052
1.957
.000
7.696
1.245
1.261
1.533
1.771
.979
1.089
1.206
.000

Assessment.
Facility Composite.
OLS regression analysis of the predictor variables regressed on the facility
composite for the juveniles who received a mental health assessment (n = 9,900) indicated

120

that all but four predictor variables were statistically significant. The largest predictors of
out-of-home placement were violation of probation and probation history. Gender was
negatively related to outcome indicating that being female decreased a juvenile’s
likelihood of being removed from the home. Having a diagnosis increased the severity of
placement while having an internalizing disorder decreased the severity of placement type.
Table 35 presents the results of the OLS regression analysis of the predictor variables
including mental health diagnosis for facility composite.
Table 35 Analysis of predictor variables regressed on facility composite for Assessment
and gender (n = 9,900).
Variable
Constant
Gender
Referral Age
Offense
Status
VOP
Hispanic
Black
Offense History
Probation History
First Age
Diagnosis(es)
Externalizing
Internalizing
Note: R2 = .294 (p < .0001)

B
-.554
-.366
.020
.157
-.495
.609
-.030
.022
.100
.299
.057
.152
-.034
-.069

S.E.
-.131
.027
.011
.007
.075
.030
.030
.030
.006
.014
.010
.011
.020
.024

Sig.
.000
.000
.071
.000
.000
.000
.316
.475
.000
.000
.000
.000
.089
.004

Detention.
The binary logistic regression analysis regressed on detention revealed that for
juveniles who received a mental health assessment, there was virtually no difference in the
odds of being detained by gender for offense and probation history. However, for each
increase in offense severity, girls had almost two times the odds of detention (Exp B =

121

2.262) when compared to boys (Exp B = 1.311). For violation of probation, girls saw over
three times (Exp B = 9.473) the risk of detention when compared to boys (Exp B = 3.106).
Having a diagnosis was not a statistically significant predictor of detention for girls,
however for boys it decreased the odds of detention. The specific category (internalizing
or externalizing) diagnosis was also not significant for girls. For boys each internalizing
diagnosis increased the odds of detention by 1.217. Table 36 presents the results of the
binary logistic regression analysis of the predictor variables and detention.
Table 36 Analysis of predictor variables regressed on detention for Assessment.
Variable
Female
Referral Age
Offense
Status
VOP
Hispanic
Black
Offense History
Probation History
First Age
Diagnosis(es)
External
Internal
Constant
Male
Referral Age
Offense
Status
VOP
Hispanic
Black
Offense History
Probation History
First Age
Diagnosis(es)
External
Internal
Constant

B

S.E.

Wald

DF

Sig.

Exp (B)

.071
.816
-.208
2.248
-.247
-.035
-.023
.057
.176
.072
.052
.145
-4.285

.074
.075
.269
.231
.192
.193
.050
.125
.068
.075
.133
.136
.872

.904
119.669
.599
94.732
1.663
.032
.206
.209
6.604
.925
.153
1.27
24.139

1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1

.342
.000
.439
.000
.197
.857
.650
.648
.010
.336
.696
.288
.000

1.073
2.262
0.812
9.473
0.781
0.966
0.978
1.059
1.192
1.075
1.053
1.156
0.014

.350
.271
-1.367
1.133
-.081
.046
-.033
-.200
-.098
-.067
-.007
.196
-3.061

.033
.020
.189
.091
.089
.090
.018
.038
-.030
.030
.057
.074
.360

112.768
181.222
52.330
154.645
.824
.262
3.590
27.343
11.132
4.927
.014
6.979
72.349

1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1

.000
.000
.000
.000
.364
.609
.058
.000
.001
.026
.906
.008
.000

1.420
1.311
0.255
3.106
0.922
1.047
0.967
0.819
0.906
0.936
0.993
1.217
0.044

122

Notes: Male R2 = .067 (p < .0001); Female R2 = .140 (p < .0001)
Non-secure.
Analysis of the predictor variables and non-secure out-of-home placement
indicated that while six of the predictor variables were significant for boys, only four
were for girls. For instance, age at referral was not significant for either gender while
offense severity was a positive predictor for boys but not significant for girls. Males had
higher odds (Exp B = 3.616) of being placed in a non-secure placement for violation of
probation than girls (Exp B = 2.030). Having a mental health diagnosis was negatively
related to outcome for boys and positively related for girls indicating that for each
diagnosis a boy’s odds of being placed in a non-secure facility decrease, while a girl’s
odds increase. Neither category of diagnoses was not statistically significant for girls,
however for male juveniles an internalizing diagnosis increased the odds of being placed
in a non-secure out-of-home placement. Table 37 presents the results of the binary
logistic regression analysis for non-secure placement.
Table 37 Analysis of predictor variables regressed on non-secure placement for
Assessment.
Variable
Female
Referral Age
Offense
Status
VOP
Hispanic
Black
Offense History
Probation History
First Age
Diagnosis(es)
External
Internal
Constant
Male
Referral Age

B

S.E.

Wald

DF

Sig.

Exp (B)

-.018
.028
-.488
.713
-.315
-.017
.105
.109
.075
.293
.036
-.010
-2.721

.059
.041
.370
.149
.147
.143
.035
.082
.054
.055
.103
.101
.703

.096
.470
1.740
22.793
4.575
.014
9.105
1.733
1.979
28.631
.123
.009
14.971

1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1

.757
.493
.187
.000
.032
.906
.003
.188
.160
.000
.726
.924
.000

0.982
1.028
0.614
2.039
0.729
0.983
1.111
1.115
1.078
1.341
1.037
0.990
0.066

-.060

.045

1.757

1

.185

0.942

123

Offense
Status
VOP
Hispanic
Black
Offense History
Probation History
First Age
Diagnosis(es)
External
Internal
Constant

.198
.633
1.285
-.182
-.386
.089
-.370
-.070
-.648
.150
.813
-.781

.032
.348
.145
.129
.129
.026
.073
.040
.069
.103
.113
.538

38.770
3.300
78.795
1.992
8.988
11.908
25.901
3.019
88.262
2.137
51.402
2.107

1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1

.000
.069
.000
.158
.003
.001
.000
.082
.000
.144
.000
.147

1.219
1.883
3.616
0.834
0.680
1.093
0.691
0.932
0.523
1.162
2.254
0.458

Notes: Male R2 = .045 (p < .0001); Female R2 = .077 (p < .0001)
Secure.
Analysis of the predictor variables regressed on secure out-of-home placement
indicated that while all but three of the predictor variables were statistically significant
for male juvenile offenders who received a mental health assessment, only four (offense
severity, violation of probation, diagnosis, and internalizing diagnosis) were significant
for their female counterparts. As offense severity increased, the odds of a girl being
placed in a secure out-of-home placement increased, while the odds for boys decreased.
A charge of violation of probation increased a girl’s odds of being placed in a secure
facility almost six times (Exp B = 6.220) greater than a boy’s (Exp B = 1.242). Having a
diagnosis increased the odds of being placed in a secure facility for a boy, but decreased
the odds for a girl. Receiving an externalizing or internalizing diagnosis decreased the
odds of secure placement for boys. However, for girls externalizing diagnoses were not
statistically significant and internalizing increased the odds of secure placement. The
status variable is unreliable due to the small cell size for girls as reflected in the large
score for standardized error. Table 38 provides an overview of the binary logistic
regression results for the predictor variables regressed on secure placement.

124

Table 38 Analysis of predictor variables regressed on secure placement for Assessment.
Variable
B
S.E.
Wald
DF
Female
Referral Age
.053
.104
.255
1
Offense
.252
.094
7.197
1
Status
-17.289 4730.929
.000
1
VOP
1.828
.314
33.953
1
Hispanic
.456
.325
1.965
1
Black
.251
.324
.599
1
Offense History
.092
.062
2.242
1
Probation History
.184
.144
1.634
1
First Age
-.100
.096
1.083
1
Diagnosis(es)
-.783
.174
20.208
1
External
.423
.241
3.084
1
Internal
.761
.227
11.206
1
Constant
-3.729
1.441
6.695
1
Male
Referral Age
.017
.027
.401
1
Offense
-.040
.016
5.820
1
Status
-2.785
.589
22.371
1
VOP
.216
.073
8.859
1
Hispanic
.009
.075
.016
1
Black
.002
.076
.001
1
Offense History
.047
.015
10.549
1
Probation History
.460
.033
199.991
1
First Age
.153
.023
44.939
1
Diagnosis(es)
.463
.026
307.411
1
External
-.190
.049
15.026
1
Internal
-.416
.062
45.031
1
Constant
-4.118
.343
144.214
1
Notes: Male R2 = .132 (p < .0001); Female R2 = .074 (p < .0001)

125

Sig.

Exp (B)

.614
.007
.997
.000
.161
.439
.134
.201
.298
.000
.079
.001
.010

1.054
1.286
0.000
6.220
1.578
1.285
1.097
1.202
0.905
0.457
1.526
2.140
0.024

.526
.016
.000
.003
.900
.980
.001
.000
.000
.000
.000
.000
.000

1.017
0.961
0.062
1.242
1.009
1.002
1.048
1.584
1.166
1.589
0.827
0.660
0.016

TYC Commitment.
Analysis of the predictor variables regressed on commitment to TYC indicated
very little gender differences for offense severity, offense history, and probation history.
However, having a violation of probation was the strongest predictor for both boys and
girls, with girls having slightly higher odds of TYC commitment than boys. While having
any mental health diagnosis has no statistical significance in TYC commitment for boys,
it increases the odds of TYC commitment for girls. Having an externalizing diagnosis
increases the odds of TYC for boys, while not being a statistically significant predictor
for girls. The status variable is unreliable due to the small cell size for girls as reflected in
the large score for standardized error. Table 39 presents the results of the binary logistic
regression analysis with the predictor variable regressed on TYC commitment.
Table 39 Analysis of predictor variables regressed on TYC commitment for Assessment.
Variable
Female
Referral Age
Offense
Status
VOP
Hispanic
Black
Offense History
Probation History
First Age
Diagnosis(es)
External
Internal
Constant
Male
Referral Age
Offense
Status
VOP
Hispanic
Black

B

S.E.

Wald

.306
.813
-15.240
2.135
.014
-.084
.389
.200
-.333
.485
-.414
-.456
-8.770

.144
.132
4538.596
.536
.397
.412
.082
.161
.118
.137
.283
.272
2.161

.058
.637
-16.794
2.052
.010
.120

.041
.035
3341.322
.152
.127
.125
126

DF

Sig.

Exp (B)

4.530
38.025
.000
15.894
.001
.041
22.621
1.557
7.929
12.580
2.141
2.811
16.471

1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1

.033
.000
.997
.000
.971
.839
.000
.212
.005
.000
.143
.094
.000

1.358
2.255
0.000
8.458
1.014
0.920
1.476
1.222
0.717
1.625
0.661
0.634
0.000

1.975
324.918
.000
183.364
.006
.914

1
1
1
1
1
1

.160
.000
.996
.000
.938
.339

1.060
1.890
0.000
7.785
1.010
1.127

Offense History
Probation History
First Age
Diagnosis(es)
External
Internal
Constant

.354
.393
-.009
.038
.240
.100
-8.075

.023
.042
.033
.044
.084
.098
.618

232.082
86.943
.076
.755
8.255
1.037
170.542

1
1
1
1
1
1
1

.000
.000
.782
.385
.004
.309
.000

1.425
1.481
0.991
1.039
1.271
1.105
0.000

Notes: Male R2 = .138 (p < .0001); Female R2 = .066 (p < .0001)

Test for Multicollinearity.
To test for potential problems with multicollinearity, an inter-correlational
analysis was conducted using Spearman’s Rho. The results of the inter-correlational
analysis of the predictor variables on the Maysi-2 subsample indicate that the strongest
correlation occurs between probation and offense severity (Level), probation and
violation of probation (VOP), probation and secure placement, and violation of probation
and offense severity. However, a majority of the correlations are below .20, therefore the
likelihood of multicollinearity is low. The results of the inter-correlational analysis of the
predictor variables and the Assessment subsample indicate the strongest correlation
occurs between probation and offense severity, age at first referral (First age), and offense
severity and violation of probation. Similar to the Maysi-2 subsample, a majority of the
correlations are below .20, therefore the likelihood of multicollinearity is low. Tables 40
and 41 present the results of the analysis for the Maysi-2 and Assessment samples
respectvely.

127

Table 40 Inter-correlation matrix for out-of-home placement for female and male
juveniles mental health need as captured on the Maysi-2.
Variable

Demographics
Gender
Age
Race
-.035*
.034*
.026*

Gender
Age
Race
Level
Status
VOP
Trauma
Warn
Level
Prob.
First
Age
*p < .0001; **p < .01; ***p < .05

Level
-.190*
-.097*
.022*

128

Offense
Status
.122*
.003
-.109*
-.137*

VOP
-.075*
.189*
-.053*
-.364*
-.120*

Mental Health
Trauma
Warn
.035*
-.063*
-.009
-.045*
.024*
.008
033*
.048*
-.039*
-.089*
-.010
.038*
.353*

Table 41 Inter-correlation matrix for out-of-home placement juveniles mental health
needs as captured with a mental health assessment.
Variabl
e

Demographics
Gende
r

Age

Gender
-.047*
Age
Race
Level
Status
VOP
Diag.
Intern
Extern
Level
Prob.
First
Age
*p < .0001; **p < .01

Offense
Race

.039*
.034*

Level
-.100*
-.069*
.001

129

Mental Health

Status

VOP

Diag.

.057*
-.027*
.012
-.075*

.020**
.214*
-.007
-.595*
-.086*

-.051*
-.025**
.051*
-.082*
-.057*
-.028*

Intern
.195*
-.034*
.085*
-.062*
-.017
.044*
.257*

Extern
-.141*
-.069*
-.019
-.017
-.034*
-.037*
.464*
-.126*

Chapter V
Discussion
Summary
The first purpose of this study was to test the influence of gender on juvenile justice
system processing resulting in out-of-home placement. Although there have been
numerous studies on the role of gender in the adult criminal justice system, there has been
limited research on the role of gender in juvenile justice system processing. Of the studies
that have been published, the research and sampling methodologies have primarily been
limited to either a specific pre-adjudication (detention) or post adjudication (state operated
youth prison) placement type and location, and not on the system array of potential out-ofhome placements or across multiple jurisdictions (Chesney-Lind, 1973; Chesney-Lind,
1977, Chesney-Lind, 1988; Chesney-Lind, 2002; Chesney-Lind & Shelden, 1998; Dembo,
et al., 1993; & Karoki & Chesney-Lind, 1985). Therefore, the first part of this study
evaluated the influence of gender as a predictor for all the facility types available to a
juvenile court for consideration. This included pre-adjudication detention, non-secure
residential placements, secure post-adjudication, and commitment to the Texas Youth
Commission (the state operated youth prison system).
It was hypothesized that female juvenile offenders were ordered to out-of-home
placement at a higher rate than males for less severe offenses. The sample used to test the
hypothesis included all youth referred to three urban probation departments during the time
period of January 1, 2007 through December 31, 2008 ( N = 40,917). This sampling
methodology allowed for the ability to examine the predictor variables on the outcome of

130

placement while controlling for offense and demographic effects. Both bivariate and
multivariate analyses were conducted. The bivariate tests revealed that a greater percentage
of boys were placed out-of-the home than girls. The regression analysis on the facility
composite variable indicated that being male, offense severity, and violation of probation
increased a juvenile’s likelihood of being removed from their home. Committing a status
offense decreased a juvenile’s odds of out of home placement.
However, the analysis on the predictor variables for specific placement types
indicated that gender was a predictive factor of out-of-home placement but the influence
varied by facility type. Specifically, binary regression analysis indicated that as offense
severity increased, the odds of a girl being detained increased greater than the odds for a
boy. For non-secure out-of-home placements, the predictors for placement were mixed.
While there was very little difference in the influence of on out-of-home placement by
offense severity between the genders, as probation history increased the odds of a girl
being placed in a non-secure facility increased by more than double that of a boy.
However, for the offense of violation of probation, the odds of boys being placed in a nonsecure placement increased by double that of a girl. For secure out-of-home placement, for
each increase in offense severity, a girl’s odds of being placed increased, greater than that
for a boy, indicating that offense severity was less of a predictor for secure placement for
boys than girls. However, if a girl was charged with a violation of probation, her odds of
being placed in a secure facility increased at over ten times the rate of a boy’s. Finally, the
analysis revealed that there was no significant difference between the predictor variables
and TYC commitment by gender.

131

The second purpose of this study was to test the influence of mental health need on
juvenile justice system processing on out-of-home placement. Previous research has
indicated that offenders with psychiatric disorders are disproportionately
represented in juvenile correctional facilities (Atkins et al., 1999; Teplin
et al.,1998; Teplin et al., 2002; Wasserman et al., 2005). For instance, one
study indicated that 66% of males and 74% of females from a sample of juvenile detainees
in a large city met diagnostic criteria for at least one mental health diagnosis (Teplin et
al., 2002). In addition, the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission (the
state agency that at the time of this study provided funding and
oversight to the 168 local juvenile probation department’s across the
state) reported that over 65% of the juveniles placed in secure postadjudication facilities had significant mental health needs in comparison
to 45% in pre-adjudication detention facilities, and 26% of juveniles
supervised in the community (Texas Juvenile Probation Commission,
2010b). However, similar to the female offender literature, very little research has been
conducted to examine the influence of mental health need on juvenile justice processing.
Therefore, it was hypothesized that juvenile offenders with mental health needs
were ordered to out-of-home placement more often than offenders without mental health
needs with similar offenses. The tests for this hypothesis were conducted using two
subsamples comprised of youth with different levels of measured mental health need. The
first subsample included youth from the initial sample who had received a mental health
screening with the Maysi-2 (n = 34,222), and the second included a subset of youth who
had received an assessment from a licensed mental health professional (n = 9,900).
132

Mirroring the rate of mental health disorders published in existing prevalence
studies, the bivariate analysis revealed that, with the exception of secure placement,
juveniles who had been ordered to out-of-home placement had greater prevalence and
frequency of mental health need in both the Maysi-2 and the Assessment samples. This
trend not only spanned across the system array of placement types, but also across all types
of offenses, however there was no difference in mental health need by offense severity.
Detention and secure placement had higher percentages of juveniles with a mental health
diagnosis than non-secure placement and TYC commitment, indicating some variability
between facility type and mental health need.
Multivariate analysis of the Maysi-2 subsample indicated that although both scores
on the trauma scale and scores falling within the warning cutoff range on the Maysi-2 were
positive predictors of out-of-home placement. In addition, the Maysi-2 measures were
composite variables indicating that any increased score resulted in a girl or boy being
placed in a higher level out-of-home placement. Therefore, while an increase in offense
severity increased the odds of out-of-home placement greater than a positive score on the
mental health screening measures, multiple scores on the composite measures increased the
likelihood of deeper system involvement with an increased likelihood of more severe
placement. Additionally, analysis of the Assessment subsample indicated that having a
mental health diagnosis increased a juvenile’s odds of being removed from the home at a
comparable rate as an increase in offense severity.
The third and final purpose of this study was to evaluate the influence of gender
and mental health need on out-of-home placement. Research has established a correlation

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between female delinquency and mental health need. A study published in 2007
indicated that almost 21% of female crime could be attributed to the symptoms of a
mental health disorder or multiple disorders, compared to only 15% for males (Copeland
et al., 2007). Others have indicated that the existence of anxiety and depressive disorders
are strong indicators of violent offending among female offenders, and that females have
higher rates of anxiety disorders than their male counterparts (Atkins et al., 1999;
Copeland et al., 2007; Wasserman et al., 2007). Subsequently, researchers have begun to
hypothesize mental health disorders actually increase a girl’s likelihood of delinquent
activity (Kovacs, 1996; Renouf & Harter, 1990), and perhaps even influence the
subsequent response from the juvenile justice system (McReynolds, Schwalbe, &
Wasserman, 2010). The effect of psychiatric disorder is further complicated by a higher
rate of co-occurring disorders among female juvenile offenders (Dembo, Williams, &
Schmeidler, 1993; Kataoka, 2001; Randall, Henggeler, Pickrel, & Brondino, 1999; Ulzen,
Psych, & Hamilton, 1998). At least one recent study found that while externalizing
disorders increased the risk of recidivism for both girls and boys, girls with co-occurring
disorders had more than double the risk of re-arrest than boys (McReynolds et al., 2010).
It was hypothesized that female juvenile offenders with mental health needs were
ordered to out-of-home placement at a higher rate for lesser offenses than males with
similar mental health need. The tests for this hypothesis included multivariate logistic
regression with separate female and male models and separate analysis by level of mental
health need (Maysi-2; Assessment). The OLS regression model regressed on the facility
composite variable for both the Maysi-2 and the Assessment sample indicated that being
male increased a juvenile’s likelihood of being placed out-of-home. The model indicated

134

further that scores on both of the Maysi-2 screening measures of mental health need and
receiving a mental health diagnosis influenced how deeply in the system they were
placed.
However, the binary logistic regression analysis conducted for specific facility
type indicated differences between the predictor variables and gender. For detention,
analysis on both the Maysi-2 sample and Assessment sample indicated that when offense
severity increased, the odds for a girl of being detained increased more than the odds for
a boy. For the Maysi-2 sample, both scores on the trauma scale and scores within the
warning cutoff were statistically significant positive indicators of odds of detention for
boys, while only the trauma scale being significant for girls. However, for each positive
score on the trauma scale, the odds of detention increased at a higher rate for girl than for
boys. For the Assessment sample, none of the mental health need variables (having a
diagnosis, internalizing diagnosis, and externalizing diagnosis) were statistically
significant for girls, while both having any diagnosis or having an externalizing diagnosis
were significant, but negatively related for boys. This indicated that the only level of
mental health need that increased the odds of detention for girls was a positive score on
the trauma scale on the Maysi-2, while any score on the Maysi-2 measures of mental
health increased the odds of detention for boys.
For non-secure placement, analysis of the assessment sample indicated that
offense severity was not a statistically significant predictor of non-secure placement for
girls, but was a positive predictor for boys. Additionally, for an offense of violation of
probation, boys across both mental health subsamples had higher odds of placement than
girls. However, for each increase in probation history, girls experienced a greater

135

increase in the odds of placement in a non-secure facility than their male counterparts.
None of the Maysi-2 measures of mental health need were significant predictors of nonsecure placement for boys, while both increased odds for girls. Receiving any mental
health diagnosis increased the odds of non-secure placement by over double for girls
when compared to boys while having an internalizing diagnosis increased the odds for
boys and was not a statistically significant predictor for girls.
For secure placement, analysis of the assessment subsample indicated that offense
severity was negatively related to out-of-home placement for boys. However, for girls in
both the Maysi-2 and assessment subsamples, offense severity was a positive indicator of
placement in a secure facility. More specifically, for each charge of violation of
probation, across both samples, a girl had much higher rates of increased odds of secure
placement than her male counterpart. None of the Maysi-2 measures of mental health
need were significant predictors of secure out-of-home placement for boys. For girls,
receiving a score within the warning cutoff decreased her odds of secure placement,
while a score in the trauma scale increased her odds of secure placement. For girls who
were assessed, receiving an internalizing diagnosis increased the odds of a girl being
placed in a secure facility, while receiving any other diagnosis decreased her odds. For
boys who were assessed, receiving any diagnosis increased the odds of placement, while
receiving an externalizing or an internalizing diagnosis decreased their odds of secure
out-of-home placement.
Analysis conducted for TYC commitment revealed that there was very little
variability between genders on offense severity, offense history, and probation history.
However, there was some gender differences related to mental health need. As with the

136

other placement outcomes, the only Maysi-2 measure with significant indication of
increased risk for girls was a score on the trauma scale. However for boys, a score on the
trauma scale or a score in the warning cutoff indicated increased odds of TYC
commitment. For youth who received an assessment, receiving an externalizing diagnosis
increased the odds of commitment for boys, while receiving any diagnosis increased the
odds for a girl.
Results of Hypothesis Testing
The results of the bivariate tests and regression analyses indicated that the null
hypothesis for H1 could be partially rejected. The bivariate tests indicated that
misdemeanor and status offenses accounted for a larger percentage of offenses for girls in
detention and non-secure placement than for boys. The regression analysis indicated that as
offense severity increased, the likelihood of a girl being detained increased at a higher rate
than a boy. In addition, for every increase in probation history, the increase in odds of a
girl being detained was greater than that of a boy. For non-secure facilities, probation
history was a positive indicator of risk of placement for girls, while it was a negative
indicator for boys. For secure placement, an offense of violation of probation increased the
odds of a girl being placed by a much greater amount than that of a boy. However, for TYC
the analysis indicated that there was not much gender variance among the predictor
variables.
The results of bivariate tests and multivariate analyses for H2 indicated that the null
hypothesis could be partially rejected. The bivariate tests revealed that, despite offense
severity, juveniles in out-of-home placement had higher rates of mental health need in both

137

the Maysi-2 and Assessment subsamples than juveniles with similar offenses who
remained in the community. However, the highest concentrations of juveniles with mental
health needs occurred in secure pre-adjudication detention and secure post-adjudication
facilities. The multivariate regression analysis indicated that, for youth who had received a
mental health assessment, having any diagnosis had virtually the same odds of out-ofhome placement as no diagnosis.
Similar to the tests for H1 and H2, the analyses for H3 revealed that the null
hypothesis could be partially rejected. The results of the bivariate analyses indicated that
girls had higher rates of mental health need based on the Maysi-2 measures. The analyses
revealed further that girls had higher percentages and mean scores for diagnoses associated
with internalizing disorders, while boys had higher rates for those associated for
externalizing. OLS regression analysis revealed that a positive score on the trauma scale on
the Maysi -2 was the strongest predictor of placement level of all the predictor variables.
Binary logistic regression analyses of the Maysi-2 subsample revealed that for detention an
increase in trauma scores and offense severity increased the odds of a girl being detained at
a higher rate than a boy. The analyses revealed further that for violation of probation, a
girl's odds of being detained increased by almost double that of a boy's.
For non-secure placement, the analyses indicated that, when controlling for offense
severity, receiving a positive score on any of the two Maysi-2 measures of mental health
need and receiving any mental health diagnosis were positive predictors of being placed
for girls, but were not significant predictors of placement for boys. This indicates that for

138

non-secure placement, girls with a mental health need (both screened and assessed) are
placed at a higher rate than their male counterparts in non-secure placements.
For secure out-of-home placement, the results were mixed by level of mental health
need and offense seriousness. The high rate of instability for status offenses for girls
indicated that there was a very small cell size in the regression analysis. Therefore the
differences in offense severity were difficult to interpret. However, receiving a violation of
probation or a positive score on the trauma scale greatly increased the odds of being placed
in a secure facility for a girl when compared to a boy. For youth who received a mental
health assessment, a violation of probation increased the odds of secure placement for a
girl by over six times the amount as for a boy with the same charge. In addition, having an
internalizing diagnosis increased a girl's odds of being placed, while having an
internalizing diagnosis decreased the odds for a boy. It should be noted that having any
diagnosis increased the odds of a boy being placed while decreasing the odds of a girl
being placed in a secure facility.
For TYC commitment, both offense severity and violation of probation created
similar odds of TYC commitment by gender. However, having any mental health
diagnosis increased the odds for a girl of TYC commitment while being a non-significant
predictor for a boy. It should be noted, however, that although having an externalizing or
internalizing diagnosis was not a significant predictor of TYC commitment for a girl,
having an externalizing diagnosis increased the odds for a boy.

139

Limitations
While this study utilized secondary data, a concentrated and strategic effort was
made to ensure that the effects of any data limitations such as missing data results were
minimized. Specifically, listwise deletion was utilized to eliminate cases with any
missing values from analysis. The only instance of small cell size was addressed within
the context of the regression analyses conducted on the outcome of secure placement and
TYC commitment and female status offenders. Essentially, the small cell size was
generated because of the extremely small number of cases that resulted in either secure
residential placement or TYC commitment for female status offenders. A second
limitation of this study was found within the context of the offense category Violation of
Probation (VOP). Some VOPs may have originated as an additional offense that was not
independently adjudicated, but rather consolidated within the disposition of the VOP. To
control for this limitation, the variable Probation History was used as a secondary
measure of previous supervision. A third limitation of this study was that the Assessment
samples were limited to only youth who had received a mental health assessment from
licensed mental health professionals on staff with the participating juvenile probation
departments. This limited analysis to only those youth whom the department identified
as needing a mental health assessment. Not all youth who scored within the cutoffs of the
Maysi-2 as needing a mental health assessment actually received an assessment, thereby
creating the opportunity for some possible selection bias. Future study should include
analysis on all mental health assessment data including any diagnostic criteria that may
have been administered by mental health professionals from the public and private mental
health delivery system.

140

Implications and Conclusion
Adolescents with mental health disorders are disproportionately represented in the
juvenile justice system. Studies indicate that offenders with disorders are much less
successful under supervision in the community than those without mental health disorders
(Monahan, Redlich, Swanson, et al., 2005; Skeem Emke-Frances, & Louden, 2006;
Dauphinot, 1996; Solomon, Drain, & Marcus, 2002; Solomon et. al., 1995 & Skeem,
Louden, Polaschek, & Camp, 2007;). In addition, girls involved in the juvenile justice
system have been found to have higher rates of mental health need than their male
counterparts and respond less positively to system involvement. The juvenile justice
system is ill equipped to address the multi-faceted needs of youth with mental health
disorders. Therefore, it is not surprising that this study supported the findings of others that
juveniles with mental health disorders are disproportionately represented in juvenile
facilities (Atkins, Jeffers, Montgomery, et al., 1999; Teplin, Abram, & McClelland, 1998;
Teplin, et al., 2002; Wasserman, et al., 2005). The findings of this study also suggest that
through the use of violation of probation, girls and juveniles with documented mental
health needs are funneled deeper into county based secure out-of-home placement than
those without a mental health need. Further study should be conducted to evaluate the
systemic response to juvenile delinquency for adolescents with mental health needs and the
influence of gender.
Recently national stake holders have begun to increase recognition of the need to,
whenever possible, divert youth with mental health needs into appropriate community
services and away from the adjudication process (Skowyra & Powell, 2006). Several

141

studies have questioned the appropriateness of relying on the juvenile justice system for
mental health services and examined the mechanisms to facilitate diversion such as the use
of specialized supervision, crisis intervention teams, and specialty mental health courts
(Arredondo, Kumili, Soto, et. al., 2001; Morrissey, Fagan, & Cocozza, 2009; Koppleman,
2005; & National GAINS Center , 2004). Although these diversion strategies have been
funded and supported by both state and federal policy organizations, to date, no long term
evaluations of those strategies have been conducted. Further research on the effectiveness
of diversion strategies for girls and juveniles with mental health needs should be
conducted.
Finally, when diversion from the juvenile justice system is not an option, the
juvenile justice system should ensure that the most appropriate and effective treatment be
made available to meet the youth’s multifaceted needs. Research on the implementation
and use of evidence based treatment for adolescents with mental health disorders has seen
an increased focus in the mental health system. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health
Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines evidence-based treatment as an approach to
treatment that is based in theory and has received scientific evaluation. Some community
based approaches that have been extensively researched and found to be evidence based
and effective with youth with mental health needs are Multisystemic Therapy, Functional
Family Therapy, and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (Farmer, Compton, Burns,k &
Robertson, 2002; Henggeler et. al, 2002; Hoagwood, Burns, Kiser, Ringseisen, &
Schoenwald, 2001). However, minimal research has been conducted on treatment
effectiveness within the juvenile justice system. More specifically, research on the
feasibility of the use of evidence based treatment in correctional settings has been virtually
142

non-existent. Prospective studies on the modification and implementation of evidence
based practices and treatments in the juvenile justice system across the entire service array
(community and residential settings) should be conducted.

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Curriculum Vita
NAME
Erin M. Espinosa, MPA

POSITION TITLE
Research Associate, Center for Social Work Research, The
University of Texas at Austin

EDUCATION/TRAINING
INSTITUTION AND LOCATION
Prairie View A&M
Angelo State University

DEGREE
Ph.D.
MPA

YEAR(s)
2011*
2001

B.A.

1997

Angelo State University

FIELD OF STUDY
Juvenile Justice
Public Administration
Government, Criminal
Justice

A. POSITIONS AND HONORS
Positions
2010 – Present
2009 - Present
2007 - 2010
2004 - 2005
2001 - 2007
1998 - 2001

Research Associate, University of Texas at Austin, Center for Social
Work Research, Austin, Texas
Lecturer, Texas State University, Department of Criminal Justice,
Round Rock Campus, Round Rock, Texas. Courses Taught: CJ 3346
Research in Criminal Justice, CJ4340: Crime Theory and Victimization
Co-Lead Mental Health and Juvenile Justice Action Network, Texas
Mental Health and Juvenile Justice Action Network, Texas Juvenile
Probation Commission, Austin, Texas.
Adjunct Professor, Austin Community College, Austin, Texas.
Behavioral Health and Federal Programs Specialist, Texas Juvenile
Probation Commission, Austin, Texas.
Juvenile Probation Officer, Tom Green County Juvenile Probation
Department, San Angelo, Texas.

Honors and Other Experience
2010 - Present
2009 - Present
2009 - Present

Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers
Texas Suicide Prevention Council, Co-Chair
American Probation and Parole Association
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2007 - Present
2006 - Present
2005 - Present
2005 - Present

Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences
Editorial Board Member, Journal of Knowledge and Best Practices in
Juvenile Justice and Psychology, Prairie View A&M University, Texas
Juvenile Crime Prevention Center.
Juvenile Justice Association of Texas
Texas Probation Association

B. SELECTED PUBLICATIONS
I. Refereed Journal Articles:
a) Colwell, B., Villarreal, S., & Espinosa, E. (2011). Preliminary outcomes of a
pre-adjudication diversion initiative for juvenile justice involved youth with
mental health needs in Texas. Criminal Justice & Behavior. In Press.
b) Hartzler, B., & Espinosa, E. (2010). Moving criminal justice organizations
toward adoption of evidence-based practice via advanced workshop training in
motivational interviewing: A research note. Criminal Justice Policy Review.
c) Espinosa, E., Belshaw, S., & Osho, G. (2008). Justice by gender:
Understanding the role of gender in disposition decisions involving out of
home placement for juvenile offenders. American Journal on Criminal
Justice, 33, 267-281.
II. Non-refereed Articles:
a) Espinosa, E. (2009). Correlates of delinquency: Evaluating the correlations
among traumatic brain injury, mental illness, and juvenile delinquency. Texas
Juvenile Probation Commission, Austin, TX.
b) Espinosa, E. (2009). Merging care with control: A need for specialized
supervision in juvenile justice. Texas Juvenile Probation Commission, Austin, TX.
c) Espinosa, E., & Belshaw, S. (2007). OC pepper spray: Research overview and
policy recommendations. Texas Probation Association. 22:4.
d) Espinosa, E. (2005). Bridging the gap: Concept paper for telemental health pilot
initiative for juvenile probation in Texas. Texas Juvenile Probation Commission,
Austin, TX.

175

e) Schwank, J, Espinosa, E. & Tolbert, V. (2003). Mental Health and Juvenile Justice
in Texas. Texas Juvenile Probation Commission, Austin, TX.
C. RESEARCH SUPPORT
Completed Research Support
Front- End Diversionary Initiative (PI: Colwell) 2009 - 2010
Mental Health and Juvenile Justice Action Network (MHJJAN)
John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation,
National Center on Mental Health and Juvenile Justice
Preliminary evaluation of the Texas probation -based: Front-End
Diversionary Program.
As a component of the State of Texas' involvement in the MHJJAN, this
research project involved the in-depth development of the pre-adjudication
diversion of juveniles with mental health disorders using specialized
juvenile probation officers.
Role: Co-Investigator

176