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Why are women less inclined towards deviancy and crime than men?

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Introduction

Scepticism about the validity and the reliability of criminal statistics is now, more or less universal. And although they do not provide an accurate picture of the amount of crime that occurs, there is one obvious observation that can be made. That is, over long periods of time and in many differing judicial systems, women have a consistently lower rate of officially recorded crime than that of men. (Heidensohn; 1996:2) For example, in 2000 the home office crime statistics showed that of the 1.7 million known offenders in England and Wales, only 316.000 were women. (Home Office Crime Statistics 2001) With this also being the case in other countries, why does this discrepancy occur? (Jones; 2000:87) This assignment will discuss some of the theories offered in an attempt to explain why women are less inclined towards deviancy and criminality than men. The amount of work carried out on the area of women and crime is extremely limited in comparison with that of men. Smart (1977) suggest that female offenders are seen as less of a problem for society, their crimes are trivial therefore, unworthy of research. Smart (1977) also pointed out that sociology and criminology have tended to be dominated by males. Therefore, crime was studied by men, about men. (Haralambos & Holborn; 1995:434) ...read more.

Middle

Hindelang (1979) examined American victimisation data and found that victims of female offenders did in fact report them to the police less often than was true for the victims of male offenders. (Morris; 1987:23) However, none of these explanations give any serious consideration to gender issues such as female socialisation. The impact of differential socialisation cannot be ignored; this starts at birth when parents respond differently to babies depending on what sex they believe the child to be. Girls are encouraged to retain a strong identification with their mothers and to imitate their behaviour. They grow up with a more emotional and sensitive outlook than that of boys. (Chodorow; 1978 cited in Fulcher & Scott; 1999:142) Girls are given dolls, soft toys and miniature domestic objects and appliances to play with, encouraging them to rehearse their expected adult roles as mothers and housewives. (Haralambos & Holborn; 1995:590) Therefore, because females are socialised in this way and because they are socialised into being passive and well behaved, they commit less crime. Sutherland (1947) attributed the relative lack of female criminality to this socialisation into the feminine role, and because they are more closely supervised than boys, there is less chance of them being exposed to criminal behaviour. Nor are they taught to be tough aggressive risk-takers, attributes that Sutherland considered necessary for a successful criminal. ...read more.

Conclusion

Heidensohn suggested his work was fanciful rather that scientific. (Haralambos & Holborn; 1995:438) In contrast, Pollack (1950) suggested women's crime was in fact similar to that of men, and that they were more likely to escape conviction because of male chivalry. In criticism, most other researchers have not found support for this chivalry thesis. Steven Box reviewed data from self-report studies in Britain and the United States and found that some studies did indicate leniency towards women but the majority did not. (Haralambos & Holborn; 1995:436) However, there is evidence to support Pollack's claim that female offenders are more likely to escape conviction than males, as official crime statistics have shown. Other explanations for women's lack of participation in criminal activities looked at gender issues. Their socialisation into the feminine role, and the way male-dominated patriarchal societies control women make it more difficult for women to break the law. Crime only becomes a possibility when the advantages seem to outweigh the disadvantages and are more appealing than the likely rewards of conformity. (Hirshi; 1969 cited in Haralambos & Holborn; 1995:441) Women are not specialists in crime but they commit almost all forms. Their potential for deviance may be as great as men's, but their actual depredations far fewer, suggesting that it is gender-linked factors that intervene to curb and gentle the possibilities of female criminality. But however plausible some of these explanations are, there is no single or special theory to explain why there is comparatively few female criminals. ...read more.

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