Feminist Criminology


Chivalry Thesis

Support for Chivalry Thesis 

  • women are seen as biologically non criminal
  • they are 'innately' good and have a role of nurturing and caring 
  • Campbell (1981) female offenders are more likely to escape conviction, in 1990, 29% of men were cautioned, 71% convicted, in females this was a 4% and 51% split 
  • Official stats, 8.95 male convictions for every one female 
  • Hood (1989) women were given custodial sentences 3-4% less than men, this may be as they are central to family life 

Against the Chivalry Thesis

  • Box (1981) women who commit more serious crimes are treated less favourably 
  • Farrington and Moris (1983) when severity of crime is taken into account, chivalry thesis does not exst 
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Control Theory Heidensohn

women are effectively controlled by the patriarchal society we live in 

Control at home

we are controlled at home through domestic roles imposing restrictions. This reduces womens opportunity to commit crime. it can be imposed through violence, eg. domestic abuse

Control in public

women are controlled via the threat of male violence. Their ways of acting are therefore defined by social expectations e.g. will dress conservatively to avoid sexual or verbal abuse

Control of work

women are controlled by male superiors and the glass ceiling effect 

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Control Theory - Carlen

explains female crime rates 

The Class Deal

women who work are offered material rewards, with decent standards of livings and leisure opportunities 

The Gender Deal

patriarchal ideology promises women matieral and emotional rewards from family life 

If rewards are not available, women turn to crime

  • 32/39 female criminals have always lived in poverty
  • qualifications gained mean little 
  • problems with humilliation 
  • sexual abuse 
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Liberation Theory - Adler

  • as women become liberated their crimes will become as frequent and serious as male crime
  • this is a new type of female criminal 
  • women adopt a male gender role with greater self confidence 

Supporting Evidence

  • overall the rate of female crime has gone up since liberation
  • patterns of female crime have shifted
  • growth in girl gangs 
  • Denscombe (2001) females are just as likely to take part in risk taking behaviour 


  • crime rate began rising in the 50s, long before the liberation movement 
  • working class are the most likely to commit crime but the least likely to be affected by the liberation movement 
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Sex Role Theory

Parsons (1955)

  • gender roles in the conventional nuclear family 
  • women perform expressive roles 
  • socialisation of men is more difficult which leads them to crim

Cohen (1955)

  • males turn to all male street gangs
  • they lack role models

Feminists are criticial of this theory crime should be related to the subordination of women and not male differences 

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