Biopsychological factors, gender, and delinquency

Diana Fishbein, Shari Miller, Donna Marie Winn, Gayle Dakof

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

6 Scopus citations


The goal of this chapter is to highlight ways in which specific biopsychological vulnerability factors relate to girls' delinquency. Although the majority of these factors also influence delinquency proneness in boys, the factors considered particularly relevant to a chapter on girls' delinquency are those that either are more prevalent among girls than boys who are delinquent or relate to delinquency in distinctive ways among girls. Five general categories are thus considered salient: 1. Stress and adversity 2. Attention Defi cit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Conduct Disorder (CD) 3. Intellectual deficits 4. Early pubertal maturation 5. Mental health issues A host of additional biopsychological vulnerability factors (e.g., genetic liability, social-information processing, personality traits) might have been included, but there is insufficient research to show gender differences in their relationships with high-risk behaviors. The conceptual basis for this chapter is derived from a developmental, multifactorial model of complex disorders (Tarter et al. 1999). Because no one theory attempts to understand the phenomenon of girls' delinquency, the specific vulnerability factors selected for our focus reflect an integration of new-generation etiological theories from cognitive neuroscience into developmental psychology and the social sciences. This interdisciplinary approach provides a foundation for future work to refine the model, with a goal of bridging the gap between existing theories and eventually informing gender-sensitive programming. The chapter begins with an overview of gender differences, focusing on the individual-level influence of the extent of exposure and sensitivity to these factors on behavioral outcomes. We then review evidence for these fi ve categories of factors and their association with risk for girls' delinquency. Within these sections, we discuss critical interactions between biological and psychological processes in order to understand the range of factors infl uencing girls' delinquency.1.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Delinquent Girl
PublisherTemple University Press
Number of pages23
ISBN (Print)9781592139514
StatePublished - 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences


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