Outline and assess sociological explanations of gender difference in patterns of crime.
In this essay, I am going to assess the patterns of crime committed by males and females. Many general theories tend to neglect gender as a factor influencing criminality. There is a common assumption that males often commit more crime than women. The study of criminology have tended to be dominated by males, therefore the studies are done by men about men. The official statistics suggest that gender is perhaps the most significant single factor in whether an individual is convicted of crime. The official statistics often comply with the common assumption that men commit more crimes then women. According to official statistics, in 2005, 1.8 million offenders were guilty in which 79% were male and 7% of these were aged fewer than 18. The ratio of male offenders to female offenders is four to one. The highest rates of offending for the most serious crimes were 17 year olds for males and 15 year olds for females. Pollak (1950) argued that official statistics on gender and crime were highly misleading. He claimed that statistics underestimated the extent of female criminality. Pollack claimed to have identified crimes that are usually committed by women but which are likely to go unreported. According to him, nearly all offences of shoplifting and all criminal abortion were carried out by women. Many unreported crimes are committed by female domestic servants. Pollack accepted official definitions of crime when he pointed out all the offences of prostitution that were not reported. He also suggested that women domestic roles gave them the opportunity to hide crimes such as poisoning relatives and sexually abusing their children. Pollak argued that the reason why females are often underrepresented in statistics could relate to a concept known as chivalry. Police, magistrates and other law enforcers tend to be men who are bought up to be chivalrous – they are usually more lenient with female offenders meaning that fewer women appear in the statistics. One other important factor, according to Pollak, is that women are particularly adept at hiding their crimes due to their biological make-up. Women are accustomed to deceiving men due to traditional taboos such hiding pain during menstruating and misleading men during sex. Pollak claims and assumptions were criticized by Heidensohn (1985) who pointed out that researches indicates that much shoplifting is committed by men. He had failed to take account of changes in the law against abortion in several of the countries he studied. She regards his work as being based upon an unsubstantiated stereotypical image of women. However, Pollack study was important for being the first to suggest that statistics greatly underestimate female criminal activity. Pollak’s chivalry thesis which claims that women are left off relatively lightly by the predominantly male police, judges, magistrates etc in the criminal justice system is supported by the self report study in which individuals are asked about what crimes they committed. Some self-report studies have implied that female offenders are more likely to escape conviction than males. Graham and Bowling found that males were more likely to commit offences than females; the differences were not as great as those shown in official statistics. The study found that 55% cent of males and 31% of females admitted having committed an offence. Another reason in which there is apparent evidence for chivalry is in the cautioning of offenders. Campbell (1981) pointed out that female suspects were more likely than male suspects to be cautioned rather than prosecuted. Official statistics show that this remains true. Allen (1987) also found evidence that women sometimes escape prison in very serious cases where a male defendant might have been expected to receive a prison term. Courts may be reluctant to imprison mothers with young children. However she also...
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