Gender Patterns in Crime


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  • Created by: Sarah
  • Created on: 03-06-11 09:14

Official Statistics

  • Most crime appears to be commited by males.
  • 4 out of 5 convicted offenders in England and Wales are male.
  • By the age of 40, 9% of females had a criminal conviction as against 32% of males

Some significant gender differences.

  • A higher proportion of females than male offenders are convicted of property offences (except burglary)
  • A higher proportion of male than female offenders are convicted of violence or sexual offences.
  • Males are more likely to repeat offenders, to have longer criminal careers and to commit more serious crimes.
  • Men are 15times more likely to be convicted of homicide
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Do Women Commit More Crime?

Do women commit more crime?

  • Some sociologists and criminologists argue that they underestimate the amount of female as against male offending. Two arguments have been put forward in support of this view:
  • Typically female crimes such as shoplifting are less likely to be reported. For example property crime is less likely to be noticed than the violent or sexual crimes which are commited by men mostly.
  • Even when women's crimes are reported, they are less likely to be prosecuted.

Chivalry Thesis

  • This argues that most criminal justice agents (police, magistrates and judges) are men and they are socialist to act in a 'CHIVALROUS' way towards women.
  • The criminal justice system is more lenient with women and so their crimes are less likely to end up in official statistics. Invalid picture, therefore exaggerates the extent of gender differences.
  • Women are more likely to be cautioned than men rather than being prosecuted.
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Women and Crime.

Evidence Against the Chivalry Thesis

  • Dave Farrington and Alison Morris' study of sentences of 408 offences of theft in a megistrates court found that women were not sentenced more leniently for comparable offences.
  • If women appear to be treated more leniently, it may simply be because their offences are less serious.
  • Women offenders also seem more likely to show remorse, and this may help to explain why they are more likely to receive a caution instead of going to court.

Bias Against Women

  • Women who do not conform to accepted standards of monogamous heterosexuality and motherhood are punished more harshly. Stewart found, magistrates perceptions of female defendants' characters were based on stereotypical gender roles.
  • Pat Carlen believes when women are jailed, it is less because of their seriousness of crimes but more on the courts assessment of them as wives, mothers and daughters.
  • Feminists believe that the criminal justice is patriarchal.

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Explaining Female Crime

  • Sociologists put forward three main explanations of gender differences in crime: sex role theory, control theory and the liberation thesis.
  • Functionalist sex role theory: Differences in the socialisation of males and females. Boys are encouraged to be tough, aggressive and risk taking and this can mean more violent acts committed. Talcott Parson, traces differences in crime and deviance to the gender roles. Men take the instrumental, breadwinner role and women perform an expressive role, taking responsibility of the children. Boys seek to distance themselves from their women role model and engage in their masculinity through aggression and anti-social behaviour, which can lead to delinquency.  Cohen says that boys lack a male role model, so their role model are male street gangs.
  • Patriarchal Control Theory: Women have a much more conformist behaviour. They commit fewer crimes than men because of the patriarchal society which imposes greater control over women, which reduces their opportunity to offend. At home: Women's domestic role with its constant round of housework and childcare, imposes restrictions on their time. Women who try to reject it may find their partners imposing it by force, for example domestic violence. In Public: Women are controlled in public places by the threat of fear of male violence against them especially sexual. Heidensohn notes that sensationalist media reporting of rapes adds to women's fear. Females are also controlled in public by their fear of being defind as not respectable, the way they dress etc may gain a woman a 'reputation' Control at work: Women's behaviour at work is controlled by male supervisors and managers. The 'glass ceiling' prevents many women from rising to senior positions.
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Explaining Female Crime

  • The Liberation Thesis: If patriarchal society exercises control over women to prevent from deviating then it would seem logical to assume that, if society becomes less patriarchal and more equal, women's crime rates will become similar to men's. That is the LIBERATION THESIS put forward by Adler. Adler argues that as women become liberated from patriarchy, their crimes will become as frequent as men. Women's liberation has led to a new type of female criminal and rise in the female crime rate.
  • Adler argues that changes in the structure of society have led to changes in women's offending behaviour. As patriarchal controls and discrimination have lessened and more opportunities in education and work have become more equal, women have begun to adapot tradionally 'male' roles in both legitimate activity (work) and illegitimate activity (crime).  Therefore, they now commit male offences such as violent crime and white-collar crimes. This is because of women's greater self-confidence and assertiveness and the fact that they ow have greater opportunities in the legitimate structure.
  • Evidence to support this is: Both the overall rate of female offending has gone up.
  • Criticisms of the Liberation Thesis: The female crime rate began rising before the women's liberation movement. Most female criminals are working class which is the group least likely to be influenced by women's liberation.
  • Chesney Lind found that women were doing typical male offences such as drugs, however this is become they can be linked to prostitution.
  • Over exaggerated the extent to which women have now become liberated and in serious crimes.
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