Assess Sociological Explanations of Gender Differences in Patterns of Offending, Victimisation and Punishment

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Assess sociological explanations of gender differences in patterns of offending, victimisation and punishment

Official crime statistics show that males are four times more likely to commit crimes than females. Victim surveys show women to be more likely to be victims of sexual and violent assaults than males. It has also been suggested there are gender differences in punishments. And therefore different people have given their explanations for the reasoning behind this. The official crime statistics show that women commit less crime than men. Men are convicted of 80% of serious crimes, and women only make up about 5.7% of the prison population. There is also a difference in the types of crimes committed by men and women; most women are imprisoned for non-violent crimes such as theft or handling of stolen goods, which accounts for 57% of known female offenders in 2002

Radical feminists such as Heidensohn claim that women’s lower crime rates can be explained in terms of patriarchy. She claims that both in the family and at work men exert power and social control over women. Women who challenge the traditional roles of women within the family run the risk of having them imposed by force. In public, women are controlled by the male use of force and violence, by the idea of holding on to a ‘good’ reputation, and by the ‘ideology of separate roles’. Women often choose not to go out into public places because of the fear of being attacked or raped. Heidensohn argues that the consequence of this control is that women have fewer opportunities to commit crime and acts of deviance whereas men have more opportunity.

However, many of Heidensohn’s arguments are based upon generalisations, some of which don’t apply to all women. She doesn’t always support her claims with strong empirical evidence. Furthermore, she admits that many of the empirical tests of control theory have been carried out on juvenile offenders rather than adults, and that control theory does...
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