Gender and Crime

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Official records show an high majority of males compared with females committing crime. 

Most sociologists have started off with the assumption that men commit more crime and comparing offending males with non-offending males. 

Invisible female offenders

  • 80% of offenders are male - this questions why 20% of crime is practically ignored. 
  • Heidensohn criticised the male dominance of the subject and gave 4 reasons why it is so:
    - Male dominance of offenders: majority are male, so it's more appropriate to study them.
    - Male dominance of sociology: majority of sociology academics are male - topics of investigation reflect this. 
    - Vicarious identification: men study what interests them, most often the marginal and exciting.
    - Sociological theorising: male sociologists constructed the theories without thinking about them being applied to women. Traditional theories are 'gender blind'. 

Explaining female crime:

Biological explanations

  • Women and men are very different - women have a desire to be caring and nurturing. 
  • 'Normal' women are less likely to commit crime.
  • Dalton - hormonal or menstrual factors can influence a minority of women to commit crime. 

Sex-role theory

  • There are core elements of the female role that limit their ability to commit crime. 


  • Girls are socialised differently. 
  • Values that they are brought up on don't lead to crime. 
  • Parsons: most child-rearing is carried out by mothers - girls have a clear role model that emphasises caring and support. 
  • Farrington and Painter: did a longitudinal study of female offenders - noticed different patterns of socialisation. They were more likely to have had erratic parenting. 

Social control

  • Females have closer levels of supervision at home. 
  • This control carries on through life. 
  • Heidensohn: informal sanctions such as gossip keep them to 'proper' behaviour. 
  • Hagan: studies child raising patterns in Canada and noticed greater informal control


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