Female adolescent drug offenders: an insight into their risks


There is an ever-increasing body of literature demonstrating the differences by which males and females come into contact with the criminal justice system. In particular, the pathways perspectives make salient the roles that females’ experiences of victimization and abuse, marginalization, mental illness, dysfunctional relationships and substance abuse play in their offending behaviours. In Singapore, a study conducted by Singapore Prison Service (SPS) on the pathways to drug offending by female adult offenders revealed their use of substances for the purposes of coping, enhancement and bolstering relationships with intimate partners. Nonetheless, the generalizability of the SPS findings to our female adolescent drug offenders and the way in which the various aspects of females’ experiences contribute specifically to substance use have not been studied in Singapore. Additionally, a recent research conducted by the Central Narcotics Bureau Psychological Unit (CPU) demonstrated the higher risk scores of female adolescent drug offenders on YLS/CMI 2.0 and LS/CMI compared to their male counterparts. However, the nature of risks manifested by the female adolescent drug offenders is unclear.

This study thus aims to elucidate the nature of risk profiles of our Singaporean female adolescent drug offenders, and to understand the interface of these experiences of victimization and abuse, marginalization, mental illness, dysfunctional relationship with their substance use. A qualitative design of archival document review from drug risk assessments of 35 first-time female adolescent drug offenders arrested between 2014 and 2016 was employed.

The findings of this study demonstrate that female adolescents’ experiences of victimization and abuse, marginalization and dysfunctional intimate relationships and mental illness are indeed important factors that contribute to their drug use. Findings from this study can be used to inform and enhance current drug preventive education and drug intervention efforts by incorporating a gender-responsive element.



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