Panoramic distortions : understanding the culture of girls in a military structured residential treatment facility



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Current research on girls and delinquency has brought to awareness the often stressful and traumatic lives of girls. Furthermore, the last three decades have seen an increase in the proportion of girls entering the Juvenile Justice System and an increase in the proportion of girl’s court ordered to attend military structured treatment programs. Developed with boys in mind, many researchers in the area of female delinquency believe that military structured treatment programs are less effectiveness for girls. Thus, the goal of the current study is to consider the experience of girls in a military structured residential treatment facility. Additionally, this study sought to answer the following questions posed by the administrative personnel of this program:

  1. Why do staff members report more difficulties when working with the girls?
  2. Why are girls more emotionally labile than boys?
  3. What changes can be made to the program to increase girls’ success in the program?

Participants in this study were referred to a military structured residential treatment program. At the time of the study, four girls, ages 14 to 16, participated in the study. In addition to the girls’ participation, staff members including drill instructors, program officers, teachers, health professionals, and administrative staff participated in the study. The current study utilized an ethnographic approach to explore and identify information that may be useful in better understanding the research questions. The Listening Guide Method (Brown & Gilligan, 1992) was utilized to conduct a narrative analysis of the interviews with both the girls and staff members.

Results demonstrated that while in the program, services provided were uneven in both scope and quality. For example, lack of training among staff members resulted in missed opportunities to teach the girls necessary skills that would enable them to tolerate emotional distress while in the program and at home. In order to better meet the needs of the girls, it is recommended that this program strive to integrate both military and therapeutic programming, and educate and train all its staff members in the delivery of gender-responsive programming.