Crime and Deviance - Assess the sociological explanations for differences in the patterns of offending between males and females (21 marks)

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Gareth Collins

Crime and Deviance; Topical questions.

Read item A and the question that follows

Item A According to the official statistics, men commit considerably more crime than women and male and female offenders tend to commit different types of crime. Sociologists have put forward a variety of feminist and other explanations for these apparent gender differences in offending behaviour. 

However the official statistics may not be a very valid source of information on gender differences in offending. For example some sociologists argue that female offenders are less likely to be detected, arrested, charged, prosecuted or convicted than their male counterparts. 

Question Using material from Item A and elsewhere, assess sociological explanations for differences in the patterns of offending behaviour between males and females. 

Let’s look initially at the official statistics and what they offer us.

They say that men are four times more likely than women to be convicted of a crime, and that crime is often centred around the working class. They say that women are commonly convicted of petty crimes such as shoplifting and prostitution and that men are convicted of more violent crime such as assault and murder. But many sociologists would like to question that, and here’s why.

Graham and Bowling found in a study that men were 2.33 times more likely than women to admit to an offence. Why wouldn’t it be 4 times? Does that mean that the official statistics might not offer us a real, or accurate representation of what’s actually going on? Chivalry theorists don’t think that it does.

Chivalry thesis is based on the principle that woman are treated more favourably in the Criminal Justice System (CJS) because the majority of it’s agents - police, judges, juries - are men - and men are socialised to be protective and sympathetic towards women. The thesis says that women in fact are committing more crime than the statistics show, but that the system let’s them slip through because they are women. Evidence for this includes Graham and Bowling’s study which suggests incoherence with the statistics, and Hood also found that in a study of over 3000 defendants, women made up a third of those likely to be jailed in similar cases to men. However, while there is evidence to suggest the accuracy and strength of this thesis, there is also evidence against it. 

Farrington and Morris’ study looked into a magistrates’ work and found that some of the time women were in fact treated more harshly than men. Fox’s work backed this up when it was found that for some particular self-report studies women were actively treated less favourably than men. 

This accusation of bias against women is often backed up by feminists like Walklate and Heidensohn. Heidensohn believed that women were treated with double standards; In some cases such as that of any promiscuous sexual activity, it was okay for men, but devastating for a woman. Walklate also noted that in the case of ****, the person on trial was not the…

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