Self report studies: Introduction

  • Some sociologists beleive you are much more likely to be convicted than others- irrespective of whether or not they have commited more crimes
  • .
  • Self report studies use questionairs or interveiws to collect info on individuals and admit the number of crimes they have commited, how often they commit crime. They are also asked their social class, race and social characteristics in an attempt to get round the bias of OCS. the data is then compared with official conviction rates to discover which offenders are most likely to be convicted.
  • often used to study young delinquents
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Grayham and Bowling: Gender, ethnictiy and social

  • 1995 of 1721 14-25 year olds in england and wales
  • Found social class had no effect on thelikelyhood  of young british males and females commiting an offense
  • those from working class backgrounds were more likely to admitt to more serious offenses
  • self reportin offending rates were more or less the same for white, black and asian respondants although males more likely to commit offenses than females it was not as great as the difference in official stats
  • 55% of males 31% of females admitted to having commited an offense. 28% of males and 12% of females admitted to an offence in the last 12 months.
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Gender and Self report studies

  • self report studies related to crime show that:
  • A: female involvment in crime isn't resricted to a few area's- females don't tend to be violent (when they are its mainly as a responce to dom violence) but are involve in a wide cross section of crime.
  • B: In relation to male criminality women apear to commit far fewer crimes across the board not only in sex offences but also in more traditionally female crimes such as shop lifting.
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  • His Self report study found that the ratio of male crime to female crime is 1.5 to 1 rather than 7.1. However these findings are undermined by over repoting, under reporting, ethical problems and the difficulties of finding a representative sample.


  • Little reaserch into the extent gender relates to peoples likelyhood of telling the truth in self report studies.
  • Chivalry factor
  • Women may commit crimes unlikely to be discovered or reporting i.e solicitating
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Social class + self report studies

Box- Has reveiwed 40 such studies in a number of different countries on the basis of this evidence he rejects the veiw presented in official stats that wc youth are much more likely to engage in delinquency than mc youths. He argues that "we should be very scepticalof those who continue to argue that delinquency is located at the bottom of the stratification system

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Soc class + self report studies: Chambliss

  • Police bias and social class
  • Self report studies argue there may be consistent bias against wc delinquents in favour of mc delinquents. Chamblis shows this through his study of two delinquent ganges from the same area in 1973

Rough necks

  • WC males
  • often involved in fights, stealing and syphoning petrol
  • police+ community regarded them as "a bunch of bad boys"
  • all arrested at least once


  • MC males 0 arrests (though repeatedly stopped and searched)
  • Carried out more deviant acts than the roughnecks and of a more serious nature i.e baricading roads and drunk driving

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Ethnicity and Self report studies

  • Phillips and bowling- Young people and crime based on a large sample of young people and found that white and black respondants had very similar rates of offending (44% and 43% respectively) while Asian respondants- Indians 30% pakistani 28% and Bangladeshi 13% had significantly lower rates.
  • This study changes the wide spread veiw that the rate of offeding is higher in black ethnic groups than in that of white ethnic groups and supports the assumption that asian offending rates are low.
  • Can't infer this study shows the true rate of offending as self report studies rely on honesty of respondants and exclude from their sample people in institutions who may be more involved in offending.
  • They also underplay the more serious offenses.
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Evaluation of Self Report Studies

  • Youths from ethnic minority backgrounds are less likely to tell the truth due to distrust and susspicion of racism within the police and authority figues.
  • low validity- may exagerate for street cred (espec juvenile delinquents) may under report due to dishonsty, forgetfulness or parinoia. Though tests have been carried out to check results such as use of lie detectors nd 80% have been found to be true. 
  • Categorisation and relevence- imposibility of including all criminal acts in questionair or interveiw thus reasercher must be selective which crimes should be mentioned and which not. 
  • Representivness- Many are carried out in schools and young people (less powerfull) truants may be excluded  making sample unrepresentative . There are no such surveys on proffesional criminals or drug takers.
  • Some crimes unlikely to be reported- sex crimes and dom violence.
  • White collar crime under represented- some won't appear and some mc individuals may not see their act as a crime i.e tax evasion.
  • Therefor self report studies aren't completely reliable but they do locate more offenders than those who are convicted and shown in OCS therefor they are considerably more reliable than OCS.
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