Girl friends are better: Gender, friends, and crime among school and street youth

Bill Mccarthy, Diane Felmlee, John Hagan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


In recent years, popular media has drawn attention to "mean girls" and their negative treatment of others, particularly other females. But while the attention to girls' aggression and their mistreatment of their peers highlights understudied aspects of female behavior, it neglects the beneficial aspects of female friendship. We argue that compared to relationships with males, friendships with females provide more social control, fewer opportunities and less motivation for offending and may therefore discourage crime. Because an adolescent's gender likely influences the association between the gender of one's friends and crime, we anticipate that the association will be stronger for females than for males. The relationship is also likely affected by the context in which relationships originate; we expect that those that develop in less conventional contexts will have weaker effects on crime. We explore these hypotheses with a comparative analysis of effects of friendships on property crime in two samples of youth: those who live at home and attend school and those who are homeless and spend their days and nights on the street. Our findings support our hypotheses. The relationship between female-dominated friendship networks and property crime is negative and significant; however, this association is strongest for school females, weaker for school males and females who live on the street, and nonsignificant for homeless males.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)805-836
Number of pages32
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2004


  • Gender
  • Homelessness
  • Peers
  • Relationships
  • Theft

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Law


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