- Its possible in theory that the people who are caught, tried and convicted are a representative cross section of those that commit offences however it could be that some sections of socity are much more likely to be convicted than others itrrespective of whether they have commited more crimes. A number of socs have devised an allternative to official stats for discovering the characteristics of criminals self report studies. they use questionaires or interviews to collect information about individuals and ask them to admit to the number of crimes they have commited as well as being asked how often they commit illegal acts respondants are generally asked for details of their social characteristics, class, race etc in an attempt to get round the biases in official stats the data collected can be compared with conviction rates to discoveer which offenders are most likely to be convicted.Widely used to explore crime and drug use.
- Grayham and Bowling- (1995) gender ethnicity and social class.Studied 1,721 14-52 year olds in england and wales and found that social clas had no influence on whether young british males and females would admit to having commited offences however it was found that those from lower classes were more likely to admit to more serious offences. Also found self report rates were more or less the same for white,black and asian respondants though males were more likely to commit offences than females the difference wasn't as great as those shown in offical stats. The study found that 55% of males an 31% of females admitted an offence in the previous 12 monthes.
Gender and Self report studies
Self report studies found that:
- Female involcvment in crime isn't restricted to a few areas- whilst females don't tend to commit crimes of violence (ususally tends to occur in the fam mainly as a final responce to male violence) they are involved in a wide cross section of crime.
- In relation to male criminality women appear to commit far fewer crimes- (not just in cattegories you would expect i.e sex crimes but also in catergoie sthat tend to be traditionally associated with women shoplifting for example is predomnantly carreid out by men).
- Campbell's- self report study found that the ratio of male crime to famle crime is 1.5 to 1 rather than 7.1 however the findings of survyes are often undermined by over reporting under reporting ethical issues and the difficulty of finding a representative sample.
- Litlte reaserch has been conducted on the extent to which gender relates to peoples likelyhood od telling the truth in self report studies.
- The pattern may relate to chivalry factor or women may be commiting crimes less likely to be discovered i.e soliciting.
Social class and self report studies
Box- has reveiwed 20 self report studies on delinquency conducted in a number of different countries on the basis of htis evidence he rejects the view presented in the offical stats that wc youth are much more likely to engage in delinquency than mc youths arguing "we should be v sceptial of those who continue to argue that delinquency is located at the bottom of the stratification system".
Social class and self report studies: Chambliss
- Chambliss- police bias and social class
- Self report sudies suggest there may be consistent police bias agaisnt wc delinquents in favour of mc delinquents some indication of why this might be so is provided by chamblis in his study of 2 american delinquent angs from the same area.
- Roughnecks- wc delinquents often involved in fights, siphoned petrol, shoplifted both police and community regarded them as "a bad bunch of boys" police regrded them with suspiccion and they were all arrested at least once.
- Saints- came from respectable mc homes none ever recieved a ticket for a monor offence though the police stopped and questioned them a number of times. Carried out crimes of a much more serius nature often drink driving, stealing and placing baricades on the roads to catch out cars.
- on the basis of this chambis argued that police frquently don't take mc delinquency seriously. The saints didn't conform to the polices image of typical delinquents wit the help of their mc parents they were able to pursuade the authorities that their activities were harmles pranks rather than serious delinquent acts.
- May be that the deviance commited by mc yoths (eg drug use) is less damaging than that commited by wc youths (ie street crime) and it therefore makes sense to focus on wc delinquency
Ethnicicty and self report studies.
- Bowling and Philips- young people and crime. Based on a large sample of young people this study found that 'white and black respondants had very similar rates of offending' 44% and 43% retrispectively while asian respondants indian 30% pakistani's 28% and Bangladeshi 13% had significantly lower rates.
- This study challenges the widespread veiw that the rate of offending of black ethnic groups is higher than that of the white ethnic group and supports the suggestion that the rate of offending of asian groups is lower however we cannot infer that this study reveal the true rate of offending. Self report studies rely on the honestly of respondants and exclude from their sample people in institutions who may be more involced in offending. They also underplay the more serious offences.
Evaluation of self report studies
- Validity-those replying to questionairs or interveiws may not be truthful about the amount of crime they commit even if they are guarenteed confidentiality. Respondants may exxagerate their delinquencies out of bravado, especially with juveniles. others may under report due to dishonesty, forgetfullness or parinoia various tests have been carried out to check the results of these studies ranging from lie detectors to questioning adolencents friends about crimes they claim to take part in generally its been found that arond 80% tell the truth.
- Categorization of relivence- impossible to include all criminal acts in the questionaire/ interveiw thus the reasercher has to be selective raising problems as to which offences should be mentioned and questioned about and which not. The majority of crimes uncovered tend to be trivial.
- Problem of representiveness- many are carried out in schools and young people (less powerful) truants may be excluded from the sample leading to an unrepresentative sample, there are no such survyes on proffesional criminls or drug traffickers.
- Some crimes such as sexual crimes and domestic violence arne't likely to be reported- white colalr crime is likely to be under represented in self report studies. Crimes commited by corporations won't appear and some mc individuals may not see their acts as criminial i.e tex evasion.