Persistent Paternalism: The Instantiation of Gendered Attributions in the System Response to Girls

Valerie R. Anderson, Shabnam Javdani, Sukhmani Singh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Prior research suggests that the juvenile legal system does too little to address the sources and underlying reasons for girls’ court referrals. Drawing on attribution theories, the current study examined perspectives that characterize the response of the system to girls’ behaviors. Data from this study were derived from a multimethod, qualitative study on system-involved girls. We find that court actors hold gendered attributions of girls’ delinquency, in turn informing their decision-making about how to treat and sanction girls. Paternalism remains a persistent feature in how the system locates, defines, and responds to girls through varying gendered attributions. The findings lend further support to attribution perspectives that suggest implicit gender-biases influence court actor decision-making, exacerbating the challenges girls face in and out of the juvenile legal system. By extension, this study offers concrete policy and practice implications for systems change and improving its response to girls.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)666-687
Number of pages22
JournalCriminal Justice and Behavior
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2023


  • adolescence
  • attributions
  • gender
  • girls
  • juvenile justice
  • system actors
  • youth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • General Psychology
  • Law


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