The only area in which boys showed more risk than girls was in prior criminal offenses.
The results suggest that the juvenile justice system needs to devote more attention and resources to the problems of troubled girls, said Stephen Gavazzi, co-author of the study and professor of human development and family science in the College of Human Ecology at Ohio State University .
"The system has not been built to handle girls' issues," Gavazzi said. "Boys are usually detained as a response to public safety issues, whereas girls are more often detained because of problems in the home. But, by and large, detention facilities were built solely with public safety in mind and not for work with families."
Gavazzi conducted the study with Courtney Yarcheck, director of the Global Risk Assessment Device Project at Ohio State , and Meda Chesney-Lind of the University of Hawaii at Manoa. The study will be published in the journal Criminal Justice and Behavior.
The study involved 305 youth who were housed in the detention facility of a large Ohio juvenile court. The youth were assessed using a measure developed by Gavazzi and his colleagues called the Global Risk Assessment Device (GRAD). The measure is an internet-based assessment tool that asks youth a variety of questions to determine the risks they face for further problems in life. For example, GRAD asks how often they get into fights with adults in their homes, if they have friends who have been in trouble with the law, and how much trouble they have in controlling their anger.