I Don’t Know if You Consider that as Violence…”: Girls’ Perspectives on Interpersonal Violence and Possible Interventions
Judith Ryder, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
How social institutions define and label girls’ violence has significant implications for how the behaviors are addressed. Thus, it is important that research include girls’ understanding of and motivations for violent behavior. This study examined data from semi-structured interviews with 51 adolescent girls adjudicated for an assault or robbery. Narrative analyses of 24 of the interviews reveal the interpersonal and context-dependent nature of their violence. All of the girls had also suffered substantial victimization and loss in childhood. The robbery or assault offense was perpetrated against strangers and acquaintances (primarily other females) and tended to be interpersonal (striving for respect, power and inclusion) rather than instrumental (financial gain). Assuming an attachment perspective, findings suggest that the young women’s physical violence may have developed under adverse conditions as an attempt to coerce others into meeting attachment needs; later violence functioned as an adaptive response in aversive environments. The girls’ perspectives on possible prevention and intervention strategies are reviewed.