Date of Award

Spring 2003

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Urban Services - Management

Committee Director

Berhanu Mengistu

Committee Member

William M. Leavitt

Committee Member

Stephen W. Tonelson


This case study explored the interactive relationship between the type and level of risk experienced by males and females entering the Norfolk Juvenile Detention Home in 2000, differences in delinquent behaviors of males and females, and differences in responses to that behavior. The study was an outgrowth of a previous report to the Norfolk Juvenile Detention Home Utilization Task Force suggesting that females experienced a higher level of risk than males and that they were detained for lesser offenses. The study also was motivated by data from the Office on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention indicating that there had been a steady increase in the number and percentage of girls arrested, detained, and maintained in custody since 1994. Theoretical foundations for the study included the historical role and purpose of the juvenile justice system, prevailing theories of juvenile delinquency, and societal attitudes toward females.

The study included demographic and offense information on 1,298 juveniles held in the Norfolk Juvenile Detention Home in 2000. Additional information was collected on a random sample of 621 of these juveniles from case records in the Detention Home, particularly the Mental Health Assessment form. In-depth risk factor information for a matched random sample of 226 juveniles was collected from case files at the 4th District Court Service Unit to include social history and psychological evaluations. Data were analyzed through cross-tabulations and the Chi-Square test of significance and Phi, Cramer's V, and Contingency Coefficient measures of association. Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) was utilized for age and length of stay in detention.

Findings of the study indicated that females were detained at a younger age than males and that then were admitted for lesser offenses. The risk factor data analysis suggested that males and females came to juvenile detention with complex mental health issues; however, the study confirmed the relationship between mental health issues, physical and sexual abuse with running away, depression, suicidal ideation, and truancy for females.