Examining Gender Differences in Service Utilization among Children: Nature, Nurture, or Social Network?
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This study builds upon the existing literature by examining gender differences in the service referral and service utilization patterns among children through the lens of biological, social construction, and social networking perspectives. A secondary analysis of county wide data was used that consisted of a sample of 1,408 children aged 1–11 and data from the Adolescent Information Form (AIF) for the source of referral, contributing factors for referral, and service use histories across multiple sectors of care, such as child welfare, social service, mental health, and juvenile justice. Descriptive analyses revealed significant gender differences in the source of referral, and factors contributing to referral and service utilization among the sample of children. Girls were more likely to be referred by child welfare workers for sexual abuse victimization and family problems, such as parental substance abuse and poor parenting skills. In contrast, boys were more likely to be referred by family court workers for mental health issues, including suicidal ideation and gestures, peer relations, behavioral problems, and delinquency. The implications for the development and refinement of gender sensitive practice and research are discussed.
KeywordsGender Gender differences Children Youth Service use Source of referral Psychosocial problems Child welfare Juvenile delinquency Social networks Mental health
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