Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Julia Dmitrieva, Ph.D.


Adolescent development, Criminology, Externalizing, Gender, Impulse control, Internalizing


From 1985 to 2009, the juvenile justice system processed 86% more offending cases for females, with only a 17% rise in male cases (Puzzanchera et al., 2012), highlighting the urgent need for understanding of gender differences in etiological factors of offending. Specifically, there is an essential need to understand mechanisms of the relationship between risk factors and offending behavior. The current work combines two studies with a gender-sensitive approach and an aim to investigate gender differences in a subset of modifiable mechanisms, such as anxiety and impulse control, which link interpersonal risk and offending. The first study tests gender differences in the role of internalizing problems in mediating the link from interpersonal violence exposure to offending. The second study tests gender differences in the role of impulse control and substance use as mediators of the association between interpersonal risk factors and offending behavior. This research utilizes a cross-sectional design with 219 adjudicated girls and 1,094 adjudicated boys to compare the gender-related effects of several theoretically relevant interpersonal risk factors (exposure to community victimization, family violence, and low parental knowledge) and mediators (anxiety symptoms, depressive symptoms, impulse control, and substance use) on offending for adjudicated youth. The proposed models were tested with Structural Equation Modeling using propensity scores to control for non-random gender assignment. Study 1's models with anxiety and depressive symptoms as the mediators had excellent fit, (anxiety symptoms χ2(4) = 23.68, SE2(4) = 22.51, p2(8)= 93.04, p <.001; RMSEA =. 06; CFI = .98). Study 2’s model also had excellent fit (χ2 (8) = 93.04, p<.001; RMSEA =. 09; CFI = .96). Several hypothesized mediation pathways and interaction effects were supported across both models. Taken together, the results from both studies suggest interpersonal relationships are consequential for female offending behavior, with indirect pathways via anxiety, impulse control, and substance use. On the other hand, male adolescents’ exposure to community, victimization contributes directly to high levels of offending relative to female levels of offending. These studies, in concert, contribute a direct examination of risk factors for female and male adolescent offending behavior and have implications for the research, rehabilitation, and treatment of adjudicated youth. Understanding of modifiable mechanisms, such as internalizing problems and adolescent behavior, has the potential to inform the selection of constructs in future research as well as decisions about mechanisms to target in programs designed to prevent recidivism among adjudicated youth.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.


Received from ProQuest

Rights holder

Emma Venell Espel

File size

129 p.

File format





Developmental psychology, Psychology, Criminology