Gender and Crime
Females do commit considerable amount of crimes (National
Statistics 2016), however there is a large difference between male and female
Early on in society, Scientists explained the reason for
committing crime in terms of biology, suggesting that there was an innate
desire within certain people to commit crime (Lombroso & Ferrero 1898), however there were very few females
who were born criminal. In recent years, theories have developed beyond an
innate criminality, pointing towards a social explanation of gender differences
Talcott Parsons’ (1956) explanation of the relationship
between gender and crime is based on gender difference rather than biological
assumption about sex differences Parsons believes that there are clear and
obvious gender roles within the nuclear family. The father having a role away
from the home, as an economic provider for the family as well as a leader,
while the mother adopts a caring role, providing an emotional support system
for the family.
Heidensohn (1996) argues that because the patriarchal
society enforces greater control over women, they have less opportunity to commit
crime. Patriarchal control is in operation throughout society, in work, at home
and in public. Women are often put into subordinate positions at work, where
there is a ‘glass ceiling’ that thwart women’s prospects to rise to more
powerful senior positions, where there are more opportunities for white collar
crimes. Women’s domestic roles as carers within the home have kept them
confined, with little opportunity to get out and be exposed to crime, let alone
become criminal. Daughters as a group usually experience patriarchal control,
i.e having a curfew, being required to do housework, being discouraged from
relationships, reducing opportunities to engage in deviant behaviour outside of
the home. Throughout modern history, an increasing amount of media coverage on
rape culture and sexual violence has prevented full participation of women in
society. It has played a sizeable role in instilling fear in women of rape,
sexual violence, and a ridicule of clothing and makeup resulting in a ”bad
reputation”. Women often feel unsafe in public and therefore stay at home,
where there are less opportunities for crime.
As stated in Adler’s Liberation Thesis (1975), as women
become liberated from the Patriarchy their offending will become like men’s.
She argues that freedom from the patriarchy is causing a rise of female crime
as women are becoming more equal to men, they therefore have similar
opportunities to commit crime. Women have now reached a place where they are
adopting traditionally male roles in workplaces, at home, and in general. There
are more females in powerful positions, allowing a path into white collar
crimes that in the past weren’t available to them. This view somewhat overlooks
that female crime rate began rising in 1950s before women’s liberation. The
majority of female criminals come from a working-class home (Carlen, P. 1988),
and have not been fully able to experience women’s liberation.
Evidence strongly suggests most offenders are males,
(National Statistics 2016) however there is little to show why males commit
more offences, many arguments focus on masculinity as an explanation. The concept
of masculinity is argued to be socially constructed to be an ‘accomplishment’ (James
Messerschmidt 1993) and a title that must be kept up and presented to others.
He argues that there is a variation of masculinities that co-exist within
society. Most men desire to achieve a hegemonic masculinity as it is the most prestigious,
dominant form. Others have subordinate masculinities for example gay or
lower-class men who have no wish to achieve a hegemonic masculinity or lack the
resources to do so. Class and difference is also used as a resource among men
to accomplish masculinity, the difference lies in the type of crime, poor
groups may use violence and threatening behaviour to achieve a subordinated
masculinity while other middle-upper males may achieve hegemonic masculinity by
committing white-collar crimes such as embezzlement.
Messerschmidt moves towards a circular argument, almost
using masculinity as an explanation of criminal activity, because males who
commit crime tend to have violent and controlling characteristics. He does not
explain why not all men use crime to achieve masculinity, he uses this concept
as an explanation for almost every male wrongdoing, from blue to white collar.
Parsons (1956) Boys are raised to be active, aggressive, and
risk taking. They are socialised into discarding any female gender roles, and
to focus on the Male-Breadwinner role which involves work outside of the home.
They are encouraged to adopt aggressive, anti-social behaviour to prove their
masculinity, and their role as a man.
Ethnicity and crime
Official crime statistics are believed to overrepresent black and
ethnic minorities, there are around 80,000 men currently in UK prisons, of
those, approximately 72% are white, 13.7% are black, 7.1% are Asian, and 7.1%
are mixed, or other. The population of the UK however, consists of only 3%
Blacks, 6.9% Asians, and 2% Mixed. (ONS 2011). However, these statistics aren’t
completely representative of one minority or group’s likelihood of committing
offences, they represent their involvement within the Criminal Justice System.
Discrimination by Police, or Police strategies may be the reason for differences
in arrests or Stop-and-Search procedures, however differences in ratio of Black
and ethnic minorities in comparison to White people, are seen by some as a
result of harsher punishments to minorities
Supporters of Left Realism views, such as Lea and Young (1984)
argue that minorities and black people, especially young men are committing
more crimes than other ethnicities, and that official statistics are correct in
their representation. Lea and Young recognise that many of the unjustified
arrests and incarcerations of young minorities are due to a certain amount of
racism within the Police. However, even though there may be a racist presence,
it is not the cause of the ethnic differences in official statistics, as a
large proportion of crimes are reported to them by the public. Also, the simple
explanation of racism within the Police Force would not explain the much higher
rates of conviction of Black people over Asians, assuming that the Police are
particularly discriminatory against Black people over any other race or
ethnicity. Lea and Young believe that the difference in offending between Black
and ethnic minorities, and the White majority are fairly represented, the cause
being the difference in levels of marginalisation and deprivation.
Lea and Young’s views on Police racism as a marginal issue
within the debate surrounding ethnic minorities’ representation in crime
statistics is often criticised. There is a recurring argument that arrest rates
for Black people may be higher than that of Asians because the two groups are
stereotyped differently within British society, seeing Black people as
aggressive and suspicious, and Asians as passive and respectful.
Hall et al (1979) and Gilroy (1982) discard the view that
the statistics replicate reality, they believe that they are the result of a
socially constructed process that stereotypes minorities as a criminal type
that are more deviant in society than the rest of the population.
Gilroy argues that there is a myth that was created by
stereotypes of Black and Asian people, that depicts them as criminals, or prone
to criminal activity. He however, believes that they are no more criminal than
any other group in society, but because the Criminal Justice system act on
discriminatory stereotypes, minorities have a higher presence in official crime
statistics because they are more criminalised.
Hall et al. argue that there was a rising concern and panic
over black muggers during the 1970s (Hall et al. Policing the Crisis 1979). At
the time was a steep decline in the economy which resulted in a high level of
unemployment and substandard living conditions, the state became fractured,
with riots and strikes leading to civil unrest. By creating a common enemy, the
black mugger, it helped to congeal a broken nation. As a result, society
encouraged and overlooked random stops and searches of young Black men. This
categorisation of Black youths led to the magnification of deviancy within that
group. Hall’s perspectives are much more inclusive, merging the categorisation,
moral panic, magnification of crime, and the reaction of the nation.
Class and crime
Marx (1818-1883) argues that the social and economic factors within
society are the main causes of criminality. Working class crime is viewed only as
a political act made by the Proletariat against the Bourgeoisie, because the
exploitation of the working class causes it. This view sees dominant groups in society as
maintaining their dominance by use of the law.
Upper class, white males are usually those who identify with the
dominant group while those who are poor or are part of any minority are
automatically categorised into the subordinate group within society. These
poorer groups have much more in the way of man-power however the dominant
groups supress them with laws and regulations to keep from a rebellion.
Chambliss, W.J. (1975) argues that the concept of crime is
constructed by the dominant groups of society, and acts are only defined as
crime when it is of their interest. This means that crime is constructed by the
ruling class when questions are raised as to their exploitation of the rest of
society, for example when the public go on strike to oppose an injustice.
Therefore, the concept of crime only exists because those who benefit from its
presence are the ones who created it.
Marxists, such as Chambliss, claim that wealth and power are the
key factors in determining who suffers under the law. He also sees deviance and
criminal activity as an expected product of Capitalism, and that this system
generates a society of greedy, hostile, self-interested individuals which is a
strong motivator of crime across all classes. Individuals across all classes
use what ever means they have to get ahead, crime is merely a biproduct.
Therefore, in areas of low income, drug dealers, prostitutes, and muggers use
what they have to accumulate what they can. However, in areas of high income,
salarymen, politicians, and lawyers have subtler yet effective resources
Chambliss is quite extreme in his view and does not take into
account that individuals in upper and middle classes would not necessarily need
to commit any crimes to stay alive or feed drug habits, and therefore don’t
often get scrutinized by the law. Working class members of society however,
frequently find themselves offending to steal food for their families, robbing
shops to feed their substance addiction, or are coerced by gangs or peers. They
are likely to be low paid, with a lack of education and skills with a multitude
of opportunities to commit crime constantly surrounding them, whereas the
middle and upper class may be more inclined to conform to social rules as a
reputation of deviance is harmful to their status. They also have less need to
support others or find an income as they may already have alternative sources
of income, from parents or steady jobs.
Marxists view crime as everchanging throughout different societies
depending on their economic and social structures. However, it will always
persist under Capitalism as it promotes inequality and class conflict.
Age and crime
The relationship between age and crime has long been of
interest to Criminologists and other researchers alike. Adolphe Quetelet (1984)
for example, found that the majority of those committing or being involved in
crime were adolescents or were in early adulthood.
The Edinburgh Study (2003) was a longitudinal study in
Scotland into why young people get involved in offending and how they
disassociate themselves with the criminal sphere. It found that the majority of
youth offending was from working class families, which peaked from ages twelve
to fourteen, and decreased from there. However, the age of conviction is a few
years higher at around seventeen to twenty. Young people who live in urban
areas have more opportunity for crime, there are more shopping centres, houses,
cars, and offices, which lead to small crimes such as theft, which could be the
reason for a smaller conviction rate for younger offenders. There are fewer
opportunities for younger people to commit serious work-related crimes, such as
embezzlement or computer fraud, because their jobs are usually low paid and low
level and therefore have little experience in serious work or positions of
authority. However, for older offenders, there are more opportunities for
increasingly serious crimes, which could also be one factor contributing to
their higher conviction rates.
The age of twenty-five is where criminal activity seems to
take a steep decline as people take on new responsibilities in society such as
a career, partner, parent. The impact of imprisonment seems much more serious
because of how it will affect the offender’s life and responsibilities. Young
people however, do not have these responsibilities which may lead to an adverse
effect, where more crime is being committed because of a lack of
responsibilities and concern for others.
Peer groups may pressure others into conforming to their
norms and values, promoting deviant behaviour such as missing lessons in school
or underage drinking, creating a gateway into more dangerous groups or gangs,
allowing for more opportunity to offend as well as the encouragement and
pressure to do so. For some, taking part in criminal activity may be a basis
for building on social status within a peer group or family, proving that they
are able to commit crimes that require skill, or be the toughest person in the
Peer influence is one of the main contributions that will
determine whether a young person will engage in criminal activity, such as
substance abuse, as part of their adolescent life or not (Reed, M.D. &
Rountree, P.W. 1997). Substance abuse may pave the way towards a more criminal
future, encouraging further deviant behaviour and offending to fund an