Essay: Mixed Methods Approaches

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[. . .] Most notably, while male delinquents tend to show a fairly consistent pattern of exhibiting asocial behavior early on, female delinquents do not -- early adolescent acting-out is not predictive of later delinquency (Landsheer & Dijkum 2005). Other differences of note include the fact that when co-morbid for other psychological disorders, girls are more likely to exhibit mood disorders. Girls showed significantly greater tendencies to exhibit anxiety and depression and are less likely to exhibit antisocial personality disorder than boys (Wasserman et al. 2005). They are also more likely to have been sexually abused, an experience strongly associated with PTSD, which is a stress-related condition associated with anxiety symptoms and mood disturbances. Dis-regulation of mood and anger issues can lead to delinquency.

Research question

How does the experience of sexual abuse contribute to the phenomenon of female delinquency? This paper will use a grounded theory approach, in which experiences of the interviewed girls will yield a theory grounded in the evidence about the interconnected nature of female delinquency and sexual abuse. Grounded theory creates a theory inductively, from evidence, versus a deductive approach to research (What is grounded theory, 2013, Grounded Theory).


Rather than a retributive function, the juvenile justice system has always been based upon the philosophy that it is possible to rehabilitate youthful offenders. If the experience of sexual abuse is particularly significant in shaping a girl's experience of adolescence and contributes to later acting out, it is vitally important that we learn more about this contributing factor to 1. create social programs to improve the treatment of girls exhibiting delinquency and 2. create preventative programs to reduce the risk of abuse occurring in the first place.

Research plan

Girls within the justice system of several major urban locations who have been identified as the victims of sexual abuse will be given the option of participating in the research study. All information will be kept strictly confidential, and pseudonyms will be used throughout the process. Ideally, 20-30 girls will be interviewed as to when their antisocial behavior began, about the abuse, early experiences with schools and their peer groups, and attitudes towards authority. Responses will be 'coded' and analyzed for comparative purposes, to examine the links between the onset of abuse and a rise in delinquent behavior by the girls.

The experience of being sexually victimized is a complex phenomenon, and a narrative approach will give the researchers the ability to better understand the connection between the escalation in negative behaviors and the experience of abuse.


Landsheer, J.A., & Dijkum. C. (2005). Male and female delinquency trajectories from pre-

through middle adolescence and their continuation in late adolescence. Adolescence, 40(160), 729-48.

Wasserman, G.A., McReynolds, L.S., Ko, S.J., Katz, L.M., & Carpenter, J.R. (2005). Gender differences in psychiatric disorders at juvenile probation intake. American Journal of Public Health, 95(1), 131-7.

What is grounded theory? (2013). Grounded Theory Institute. Retrieved:

Mixed methods research plan:

Creating an anti-delinquency program for female survivors of sexual abuse


Female juvenile delinquency is an understudied phenomenon in comparison with male juvenile delinquency and there is a lack of hard data on the subject. This indicates that taking a quantitative approach to studying female delinquency might be useful, given the need for better understanding of its scientifically-demonstrable causes. However, it is also important to contextualize data with the lived experiences and narratives of young women. Current modalities of understanding delinquency are largely shaped by the male experience, and taking a more inductive approach to research that can be informed by a female perspective is essential. This is why a mixed methods study that blends both qualitative and quantitative methodologies can be so important.

Research question

Being sexually abused as a child is strongly associated with engaging in delinquent behavior later in life for female delinquents (Hartwig & Myers 2003). This research proposal will study the impact of a program developed to support female sexual abuse survivors under the age of 18. The hypothesis of this study is that an intervention program will reduce the rates of juvenile delinquency amongst participants, when compared with a statistically-similar control group who were also the victims of sexual abuse. The mixed methods approach will fuse an experimental approach with a case study approach. The quantitative component of the research will determine efficacy in terms of delinquency rates by comparing the experimental and control groups, one of whom experienced an intervention, the other of whom did not. The qualitative component will involve a 'case study' of the participating girls, interviewing them before, during, and after the intervention.


Participation in the program will decrease the likelihood of engaging in delinquent behavior of participants, as compared with a control group.


Many programs exist to address problems of delinquency. Often these programs are behavioral in focus (such as one intervention program which attempted to improve the 'empathy' levels of participating teens) or socioeconomic (including many programs which attempt to provide leadership and scholastic support to disadvantaged teens) (Briody et al. 2003). This program, in contrast, will specifically focus upon a dimension of experience particular to girls that has been found to contribute to delinquency, namely that being a victim of sexual abuse can result in a young woman acting out in a negative fashion. The program will attempt to help girls who have been sexually abused deal with negative emotions through support groups and one-on-one counseling with trained crisis intervention experts.

Research plan

The experimental group will consist of the girls involved in the support program for sexually abused girls. After determining the participant's demographics, a demographically similar control group (in terms of age, race, and socio-economic status) will be constructed of girls who have also been the victims of sexual abuse, as determined by a mixture of self-reported responses to questionnaires and legal interventions, but who did not undergo an intervention. The rates of delinquency amongst the two groups will be compared at annual intervals until the participants reach maturity. The participants will be interviewed before, during, and after the program to provide a personal context to the data being accumulated. Consent will be obtained both from the girls and also from the girls' parents and guardians.

Independent and dependent variables

The independent variable is participation in the program; the dependent variable is the decision to engage in delinquent behavior.


Broidy, L., Cauffman, E., Espelage, D.L., Mazerolle, P., & Piquero, A. (2003). Sex differences in empathy and its relation to juvenile offending. Violence and Victims, 18(5), 503-16.

Hartwig, H.J., & Myers, J.E. (2003). A different approach: Applying a wellness paradigm to adolescent female delinquents and offenders. Journal… [END OF PREVIEW]

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