Gender and crime

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For crimes involving sexuality, see Sex and law or Gender crime.

Attempts in various fields have tried to explore a possible relation between gender and crime. Violence is being measured by imprisonment statistics. This fails to account violence that goes unreported and men have an overwhelming heuristical bias to not report being victimized. Such studies may belong to criminology, sociobiology (which attempts to demonstrate a causal relationship between biological factors, in this case sex, and human behaviors), etc. Despite the difficulty to interpret them, crime statistics may provide a way to investigate such a relationship, whose possible existence would be interesting from a gender differences perspective. An observable difference might be due to social and cultural factors, crimes going unreported or to biological factors (as sociobiological theories claim). Furthermore, the nature of the crime itself must be considered.

Studies find that males are incarcerated for crimes more often than females. This is particularly true for violent crimes.


Statistical data

In the United States

In the United States, men are much more likely to be incarcerated than women. Nearly 9 times as many men (5,037,000) as women (581,000) had ever at one time been incarcerated in a State or Federal prison at year end 2001. However, women are the fastest-growing demographic group in prison. Statistically the ratio of 9 to 1 has not changed making this increase worth study, however, it is nevertheless statistically insignificant. [1].

In 2004, males were almost 10 times more likely than females to commit murder. Men are also far more likely than women to be the victims of violent crime, with the exception of rape.[2] The reference to the previous claim states women are the primary victims of rape homicides.

One study showed that women were more likely than men to deem certain behaviors that are criminal or unethical, such as inflating an insurance claim or using "cheap foreign labor," to be less acceptable (Fisher, 1999).

In Canada

According to a Canadian Public Health Agency report, the rate of violent crime doubled among male youth during the late 1980s and 1990s, while it almost tripled among female youth. It rose for the latter from 2.2 per 1,000 in 1988 to a peak of 5.6 per 1,000 in 1996, and began to decline in 1999. Some researchers have suggested that the increase on crime statistics could be partly explained by the stricter approach to schoolyard fights and bullying, leading to a criminalization of behaviours now defined as "assault" behaviours (while they were simply negatively perceived before). The increase in the proportion of female violent crime would thus be explained more by a change in law enforcement policies than by effective behaviour of the population itself. According to the report aforementioned, "Evidence suggests that aggressive and violent behaviour in children is linked to family and social factors, such as social and financial deprivation; harsh and inconsistent parenting; parents’ marital problems; family violence, whether between parents, by parents toward children or between siblings; poor parental mental health; physical and sexual abuse; and alcoholism, drug dependency or other substance misuse by parents or other family members.".[1]

Aggressivity and gender

Males are typically more openly aggressive than females (Coie & Dodge 1997, Maccoby & Jacklin 1974, Buss 2005), which violent crime statistics support. Some researchers have suggested that females are not necessarily less aggressive, but that they tend to show their aggression in less overt, less physical ways. For example, females may display more verbal and relational aggression, such as social rejection.[2][3] Men do, however, express their aggression with violence more often than women.

Sociobiological and evolutionary psychology perspective

Evolutionary psychology has proposed several evolutionary explanations for gender differences in aggressiveness. Males can increase their reproductive success by polygyny which will lead the competition with other males over females. If the mother died this may have had more serious consequences for a child than if the father died in the ancestral environment since there is a tendency for greater parental investments and caring for children by females than by males. Greater caring for children also leads to difficulty leaving them in order to either fight or flee. Anne Campbell writes that females may thus avoid direct physical aggressiveness and instead use strategies such as "friendship termination, gossiping, ostracism, and stigmatization". [4]

Sociology of Gender and Crime

Considerations of gender in regard to crime have been considered to be largely ignored and pushed aside in criminological and sociological study, until recent years, to the extent of female deviance having been marginalised (Heidensohn, 1995). In the past fifty years of sociological research into crime and deviance sex differences were understood and quite often mentioned within works, such as Merton's theory of anomie, however, they were not critically discussed, and often any mention of female delinquency was only as comparative to males, to explain male behaviour's, or through defining the girl as taking on the role of a boy, namely, conducting their behaviour and appearance as that of a 'tomboy' and by rejecting the female role Gang Violence In The PostIndustrial Era, adopting stereotypical masculine traits.

One key reason contended for this lack of attention to females in crime and deviance is due to the view that female crime has almost exclusively been dealt with by men, from policing through to legislators, and that this has continued through into the theoretical approaches, quite often portraying what could be considered as a one-sided view, as Mannheim suggested Feminism and Criminology In Britain (Heidensohn, 1995).

However, other contentions have been made as explanations for the invisibility of women in regard to theoretical approaches, such as: females have an '...apparently low level of offending' (Heidensohn, 1995); that they pose less of a social threat than their male counterparts; that their 'delinquencies tend to be of a relatively minor kind' Girls In The Youth Justice System(Heidensohn, 1995), but also due to the fear that including women in research could threaten or undermine theories, as Thrasher and Sutherland feared would happen with their research (Heidensohn, 1995).

Further theories have been contended, with many debates surrounding the involvement and ignoring of women within theoretical studies of crime, however, with new approaches and advances in feminist studies and masculinity studies, and the claims of increases in recent years in female crime, especially that of violent crime Girls In The Youth Justice System more attention seems to be becoming of this topic.

See also


  1. ^ Aggressive Girls, Public Health Agency of Canada, last updated 10 June 2006, URL accessed on April 13, 2007
  2. ^ Bjorkqvist, Kaj, Kirsti M. Lagerspetz, and Karin Osterman. "Sex Differences in Covert Aggression." Aggressive Behavior 202 (1994): 27-33. 6 Dec. 2006
  3. ^ Hines, Denise A., and Kimberly J. Saudino. "Gender Differences in Psychological, Physical, and Sexual Aggression Among College Students Using the Revised Conflict Tactics Scales." Violence and Victims 18 (2003): 197-217. 7 Dec. 2006
  4. ^ The Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology, edited by David M. Buss, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2005. Chapter 21 by Anne Campbell.


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