Understanding bad girls: The role of trauma in antisocial behavior among female youth

Irena Podgurski, John S. Lyons*, Cassandra Kisiel, Gene Griffin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


There is a substantial body of research on delinquent behavior and symptoms of conduct disorder among young males; however, less attention has been dedicated to understanding the female population. The aim of this study is to examine young girls' severity of needs related to conduct disorder and delinquent behavior in relation to various past traumatic experiences. We hypothesized that for girls the presence of these needs will be correlated with physical and sexual abuse. Furthermore, we propose the relationship of trauma to conduct-related needs will be higher among females as compared to males. Data were collected on 1,479 girls ages 12-18 who entered into state child welfare custody. Each participant has been assessed using the Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS), which helps identify mental health needs and strengths of every youth. Results show partial support for the hypothesis that sexual abuse has a significant correlation with conduct disorder symptoms; however, physical abuse showed no significant correlation with severe conduct disorder symptoms. Surprisingly, school and community violence had the highest correlation with conduct disorder symptoms. The results clearly establish a relationship between lifetime trauma experiences and the presentation of symptoms of conduct disorder among adolescent females. These results were not replicated among comparison sample of adolescent males.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)80-88
Number of pages9
JournalResidential Treatment for Children and Youth
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Law


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