Gender and Crime revision notes

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Gender and Crime
Smart (1977) argues that our knowledge of this issue is `still in its infancy'. She suggests
that the amount of work carried out in the areas of women and crime is extremely limited.
She put forward a number of reasons for this neglect:
1. Women tend to commit fewer crimes than men, so female offenders are seen as
less of a problem for society.
2. Most crimes committed by women seem to be of a comparatively limited nature
and may therefore be considered as unworthy of research.
3. Sociology and criminology have both tended to be dominated by males. They have
been studied by men and have been about men.
4. Traditional criminology is motivated by a desire to control behaviour that is viewed as
problematic. Since women's criminality is seen as less problematic than men's, it has
received less attention.
Although the years since Smart's study have seen much more interest in the study of
female crime, some theories still neglect gender as a factor. This is despite the fact that
official figures suggest that gender is probably the most significant single factor in whether
an individual is convicted of crime. Sociological theories that fail to explain this relationship
could therefore be seen as inadequate.
Most crime appears to be committed by men. Official statistics show that:
4/5 convicted offenders in England and Wales are male.
By the age of 40, 9% of females had a criminal conviction, compared with 32% for
A higher proportion of female than male offenders are convicted of property crime
(except burglary). A higher proportion of male than female offenders are convicted
of violence or sexual offences.
Males are more likely to be repeat offenders, to have longer criminal careers and to
commit more serious crimes.
Do women commit more crime?
Some sociologists and criminologists argue that official statistics underestimate the amount
of female offending. Two arguments have been put forward in support of this view;
1. Typically female crimes (e.g. shoplifting) are less likely to be reported. Also,
prostitution, which females are more likely to engage in, is unlikely to be reported by
either party.
2. Even when women's crimes are reported, they are less likely to be prosecuted. If
they are prosecuted, they are more likely to get off relatively lightly.
The Gender And Crime debate
The Sex Role Theory argues that boys and girls are socialised differently and as a result boys
are more likely to become delinquent.

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Sutherland (1949)
According to Sutherland, girls are more closely supervised and more strictly controlled. Boys
are more likely to be encouraged to take risks and be tough and aggressive. So, boys have
more opportunity to commit crime.
Parsons (1955)
According to Parsons, there are clearly defined gender roles in the family. The father has the
instrumental role of the leader and the mother the expressive role.…read more

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Buckle and Farrington's (1984) study of shoplifting witnessed twice as many males
shoplifting as females. Women were more likely to be prosecuted than men for this -
in official statistics the numbers were more or less equal.
Box's (1981) review of British and American self-report studies concludes that
women who commit serious offences are not treated more favourably than men.
They may have had lower prosecution rates because their crimes are less serious.…read more

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Home - Women's domestic role reduces their opportunities to offend. Women who
try to reject their domestic role may find that their partners seek to impose it by
force, often through domestic violence. Dobash and Dobash (1979) argue that men
are violent towards women who dissatisfy them. They deny women money - and are
also controlling over daughters. Daughters are less likely to be allowed to come and
go as they please or stay out late than sons.…read more

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Drug and alcohol addiction and
the desire for excitement were contributory factors, but these often stemmed from
poverty or being brought up in care. Being criminalised and jailed made the class deal even
less available to them and made crime even more attractive.
Evaluation of Heidensohn/Carlen:
Heidensohn shows the many patriarchal controls that help prevent women from
Carlen shows how the failure of patriarchal society to deliver the promised `deals' to
some women removes the controls that prevent them from offending.…read more

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Carol Smart ­ A Critique Of Adler:
Adler incorrectly assumes that rates of crime are an accurate guide to the future
patterns of adult crime.
Adler's views are largely based on official statistics, which are unreliable.
She did not take into account the changing proportions of males and females in the
population (e.g. there are more females in society, so more will appear in statistics).
She made no attempt to measure female liberation.…read more

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They also found a relationship between unemployment rates and crime rates
amongst women.
Like all other studies their work relies heavily on official statistics.
However, it is more sophisticated than other explanations/theories, as they take
many factors into account.
Explaining Male Crime:
Normative masculinity:
Connell (1995) argued that there were a number of different forms of masculinity which
change over time. He particularly identified the concept of hegemonic masculinity. He argues
that a normative masculinity exists in society, highly valued by men.…read more

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Lyng: Edgework:
A linked argument comes from Lyng (1990), who argues that young males search for
pleasure through risk-taking; the risk-taking can best be seen as `edgework', which means
that there is a thrill from acting in ways that are on the edge between security and danger.
This helps to explain the attractiveness of car theft and `joy riding' and of searching for
violent confrontations with other males.…read more

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White, working-class youths have less chance of educational success, so their
masculinity is oppositional both in and out of school. It is constructed around sexist
attitudes, being tough and opposing teachers' authority. The `lads' in Willis' study are
a good example of this.
Black, lower working-class youths may have few expectations of a reasonable job and
may use gang membership and violence to express their masculinity, or turn to
serious property crime to achieve material success.…read more

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At the same time, it shows how this can open up new criminal career
opportunities for men.…read more


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