Differences between boys and girls
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
When I was sitting in Juvenile Court the other day, it struck me that despite the strides in gender equality that we’ve seen in the last 30 years, the children appearing in Juvenile Court are still over 90 percent male. How could this be? Are girls smarter and therefore just don’t get caught as much by law enforcement? Are boys, age 14 to 18 just more immature, and therefore exercise bad judgment more frequently?
I know from my experience in law enforcement that underage drinking and drug use are fairly equal among boys and girls. However, assault cases and car break-ins are almost always indicative of a male crime. If adolescent male challenges results in criminal acts, in what ways do we see girls exhibit their problems?
To help answer these questions, I spoke with YouthZone Senior Counselor Kerri Cheney. Kerri is an extremely knowledgeable and experienced counselor.
Regarding boys, Kerri explained that they can have significant depression, but how that depression is manifested is where the difference with girls becomes clear.
Depression with boys often results in anger and agitation. Thus, the assaults and other cases of violence that I see filed against boys in the juvenile court.
One technique for helping troubled boys that Kerri and I spoke about was getting them to talk while engaging in a physical activity. If you can get their hands moving, engaging in an activity such as shooting baskets, putting together a model, or throwing a Frisbee, adolescent males will be much more likely to share their feelings.
Kerri added that another key that opens a boy up is creating safety in confidentiality, and showing true interest in the person that they are.
Kerri and I then reviewed what we would see with a troubled adolescent female.
Depression can be as common in girls as with boys, but how that condition manifests itself is where the difference lies. A girl’s depression can display itself as tearful, with suicidal thoughts expressed. The adolescent girl may turn to self-medicating with alcohol or illegal drugs. In addition, self-cutting behavior is often seen, as well as inappropriate sexualized behavior, or eating disorders.
When YouthZone receives a referral from the courts for a youth that has been convicted of a crime, a very thorough assessment is performed in order to try and peel away the outer layers to get to the underlying problem with the individual youth.
One technique that Kerri told me about, used to help girls specifically, is journaling.
Journaling involves a girl writing down her feelings, and in some cases writing letters to those who have affected their lives. The letters don’t have to be mailed, but the technique is used to bring the girl’s feelings to the surface.
As you can tell, both the underlying problems, and how those problems come to the surface differ greatly between girls and boys. If your child is exhibiting any troublesome behaviors, it is best to address those issues sooner rather than later.
Bruce Benjamin is Pitkin County Juvenile Investigator and a past member of YouthZone’s board of directors
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