Relational aggression in families of female juvenile offenders
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT REQUEST OF AUTHOR.] Developers of family-based interventions have suggested that female juvenile offenders are more difficult to treat than their male counterparts due to socially hostile behaviors exhibited toward families, peers, and providers. Inasmuch as the family represents a key socialization unit during adolescence, it is possible that the interpersonal hostility exhibited by female juvenile offenders is developed or maintained through transactions with their family members. To examine this issue, the present study measured relational aggression in the family transactions of 140 adolescents who were divided into four demographically matched groups (female juvenile offenders, male juvenile offenders, female nonoffenders, and male nonoffenders). Adolescents and their parents were videorecorded as they completed a discussion task pertaining to family affect, decision making, and discipline. Raters coded relationally aggressive behaviors at the dyadic (i.e., between two family members) and individual (i.e., from one person to all other family members) levels. Results showed that female juvenile offenders and their mothers directed greater amounts of relational aggression toward each another than did mother-adolescent dyads in the other groups. In addition, regardless of offender status, female adolescents directed more relational aggression toward other family members than did male adolescents. Implications of these results for treatment and research are discussed.
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