Female Delinquency in Portugal: What Girls Have to Say About Their Offending Behaviors

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This paper presents a dialogue between two qualitative research Ph.D. projects concerning girls who are involved in delinquent practices in Portugal. Our aim is to extend the debate concerning different dimensions of female delinquency in childhood and youth. This paper is focused on the analysis of girls’ explanations and understandings of their offending behaviors obtained through interviews—a methodology common to both doctoral studies. Conducting research in two different contexts—the Portuguese juvenile justice system and social housing neighborhoods—the authors explore interview data from twenty-six pre-adolescent girls, aged 7–18 years old, from various sites around the country, who have in common their disadvantaged socio-economic origins and the type of the delinquent practices they committed. Regardless of age, these girls shared similar perspectives on their involvement in delinquency, which were explained by the familial and social experiences that facilitated their offending behaviors. The transmission of delinquent values took place essentially within the female family circle or via their female peers. Delinquency was not seen by the girls as a rejection of their femininity and gender roles, nor as a resource for performing masculinity—on the contrary, different femininities were identified and risk and experimentation underpinned the girls’ practices. Discussing the contexts in which the girls emerge as aggressors allows the social dynamics which still make many of them victims even more visible.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)258-274
Number of pages17
JournalGender Issues
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 12 Sept 2017


  • Female delinquency
  • Gender
  • Offending behavior
  • Qualitative research


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