Trauma in Female Juvenile Inmates and Delinquents

Yasmin Sobrinho

February 26, 2023

MET CJ 752 O1 Forensic Behavior Analysis.

Blog Post


For my blog post I am going to discuss trauma in juvenile inmates, more specifically, female juvenile inmates. In module 4 of the course, we discussed female inmates and how treatment differs from males to females in the prison system. I mentioned in the discussion board for Module 4 that effective treatment for female inmates is unique because policy makers need to consider several factors: “mental illness, trauma, substance abuse, and relationship issues” (Rousseau 2021). The same applies to female juvenile involved in the justice system. According to Bartol & Bartol (2020), “justice-involved girls have been shown to have higher rates of trauma, more mood disorders, and sometimes more substance misuse than justice-involved boys” pp. 176). As most research and statistics has supported, there is a disparity among gender in our criminal justice system. According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons (2021), there is a major gender imbalance in our system, with females accounting for only 7% of inmates and males 93%.

I came across a study by Salisbury & Van Voorhis (2009), which highlights the difficulties women face that cause them to offend: unhealthy relationships, trauma, mental illness, and substance abuse. The first pathway based on childhood victimization showed that child abuse does not directly affect women’s recidivism, but it did indirectly affect five pathways to continued offending due to psychological and behavioral effects. Researchers found that symptoms from depression and anxiety coupled with substance abuse did have a direct effect on imprisonment for women, regardless of the measure of childhood victimization.

The first pathway discussed in this study was based on childhood victimization, which has policy implications to address these issues for young women to help reduce imprisonment or offending in women. This model implies that the most effective treatment for women who struggle with child abuse along with mental illness and/or substance abuse are programs that help them develop strong coping skills from past trauma. When the effects of early victimization are left untreated, it is easy to assume that those women will most likely never recover from their mental illness or substance abuse and place them at a higher risk for engaging in criminal behavior or recidivism. If policies are set in place to have women go through therapeutic programs that focus on prior trauma, then it’s important to ensure that the woman is emotionally prepared for that process and not forced into it (Salisbury & Van Voorhis 2009). Most of the policy implications for this gender-specific pathway can also be based on the ideas discussed from strain theory (pp.5).

The relational model shows a similarity on the findings of social bond and strain theories discussed in Module 1. This model suggests that it is important to increase a woman’s ability to self-manage unhealthy relationships, because it would stabilize their emotions and reduce substance abuse. If the goal is to reduce overall offending or the likelihood of imprisonment, then programs that target addiction and mental illness should also consider a more holistic approach (addressing underlying life circumstances) such as childhood trauma. As mentioned before, based on strain theory, family-based programs can play a positive role in dealing with previous trauma.

Overall, the research I have done indicates the importance of changing our current criminal justice system to merge both evidence-based applications with gender-specific responses. If gender-specific theories are developed, we can analyze the gendered experiences that are critical in helping us understand how trauma effects criminality. There is overlap in the variables that explain the reason for committing crime for both genders, such as delinquent peers, criminal subculture or environment, lack of social skills, social strains, or the perceived cost and benefit of crime. However, there is still a need for reforming those approaches to reduce recidivism among young women. Most research does support the idea of women committing crimes based on emotional/mental issues, gender inequality, and relational/sexual abuse; meaning that policies should be reformed to address those underlying issues that are more likely to encourage crime in women when compared to men.



Bartol, C. R., & Bartol, A. M. (2020). Criminal Behavior: A Psychological Approach (12th ed.). Pearson Education (US).

Federal Bureau of Prisons. (2021, October 16). BOP Statistics: Inmate Gender. Retrieved February 2023, from

NO ONE SIZE FITS ALL IN THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM. Danielle Rousseau. (2021, April 27). © 2023 Boston University.

Rousseau, D. (n.d.). Module 1.

Rousseau, D. (n.d.). Module 4.

Salisbury, E. J., van Voorhis, P., & International Association for Correctional and Forensic Psychology. (2009, June). Gendered Pathways: A Quantitative Investigation of Women Probationers’ Paths to Incarceration (No. 6). Criminal Justice and Behavior.


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  1. Hi Yasmin – Great post! The situations you highlighted are very concerning. Sometimes I think it’s a miracle when a girl gets through adolescence without being abused. I don’t think we’ll ever have a true percentage of the total population that has suffered abuse, but I bet it is much, much higher than reported. I also agree that it is not a good idea to force women into treatment that they are not going to be receptive to. Great post!

  2. Hi Yasmin, I love that you brought up the topic of gender-based theory in order to understand how trauma affects criminality. It is important to understand there are completely different porblems and solution when working with women as oppose to their male counterpart in the criminal justice system. Women have a higher rate of dealing with trauma by using drugs so therapy based treatment could be more effective.

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