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Young women in transition : from offending to desistance

Barry, Monica (2012) Young women in transition : from offending to desistance. In: Young Adult Offenders. Willan Publishing, pp. 113-127. ISBN 9781843922711

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The fact that offending behaviour is primarily the preserve of youth has challenged criminologists for the best part of a century to date and will no doubt continue to do so. Burt's (1925) medical-psychological study initiated a wave of positivist research that made young people 'the hapless population upon which much of the emphasis of 'scientific criminology' and 'administrative criminology' was to come to rest' (quoted in Brown: 2005: 29). Children and young people have been set apart from adults by dint of their age and status rather than their capacities and competences (Archard, 1993; Franklin, 2002). There are special measures in place to protect them from harm (whether this be self-inflicted or imposed by others), they are herded into institutionalised educational establishments from the age of five purportedly to improve their life chances, and they can be denied access to opportunities afforded 'adults' in mainstream society until they are well into their twenties. They are the main focus of criminal enquiry and their behaviour is often seen as abnormal, rebellious or pathological rather than a manifestation of the power imbalances inherent in society. This chapter argues, however, that young people strive towards conventionality and integration (MacDonald, 1997; Williamson, 1995), albeit often held back by the attitudes and practices of adults which can be both discriminating and disempowering (Barry, 2005).