The relationship between substance abuse and delinquency in female adolescents in Australia

Christopher J. Lennings*, Dianne T. Kenny, John Howard, Anthony Arcuri, Liz Mackdacy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Over the last two decades young women have been increasing their representation in the juvenile justice system in Australia. Most young women are not, however, incarcerated and investigations into the correlates of female juvenile offending have largely been undertaken on small samples of incarcerated girls. The current study reports on a review of 7 studies of young offenders, 2 of which involve relatively large samples of girls in treatment or on community orders. The analysis finds that girls use illicit drugs at least as much, if not more than boys, and have similar pattern of alcohol use. Considerable variation in drug use for substances other than marijuana and alcohol is observed between the samples, and drug use patterns appear sensitive to the time and place of the survey. Girls present with much higher levels of psychopathology, although data from the treatment sample indicate that such psychopathology settles quickly if young girls can be retained in treatment. In addition, girls present with much more concerning backgrounds of abuse, although girls tend to rate their families of origin, if anything, more beneficently than do boys. A complicated pattern of interaction of family dysfunction, mental health concerns, and abuse is mediated by gender.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)100-110
Number of pages11
JournalPsychiatry, Psychology and Law
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes


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