Lanctôt N, *Ayotte M-H, *Turcotte M, Besnard T. (2012). Youth care workers’ views on the challenges of working with girls: An analysis of the mediating influence of practitioner gender and prior experience with female clients. Children and Youth Services Review. 34(11): 2240-2246.
Research on helping agents’ preferences regarding the gender of justice-involved clients has shown that practitioners are reluctant to work with girls, which they perceive as particularly difficult and demanding. Recognizing the potentially detrimental impact of this reluctance on the quality of interventions delivered to girls, this paper investigates preferences for client gender among a sample of 131 practitioners working with juveniles mandated into residential care. We also explore the perceived level of difficulty that these practitioners associate with intervention with both genders. These perceptions are contextualized by controlling for practitioners’ gender, level of education, as well as current and previous work experience with both clienteles. Findings show that practitioners significantly prefer working with boys. This preference, however, is only found among male practitioners. Furthermore, practitioners with experience with both boys and girls have no significant preference for the gender of the clientele and feel they possess sufficient knowledge of both clienteles, in contrast to those who only worked with boys. Yet, actual work experience with both boys and girls does not eliminate the impression that working with girls is more difficult than with boys. Our findings reaffirm the need to improve training and supervision of practitioners and highlight the importance of encouraging and facilitating work experience with both genders. But above all, our results suggest that the professional preferences, affinities, and abilities of practitioners should be recognized and valued in order to create gender-responsive contexts of intervention.