Social learning and gender differences in violent crimes

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Introduction

The Uniform Crime Report statistics suggest that males commit more violent crime than females. The UCR is used to show trends in crime over time (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2002). The gender difference in violent offenses is illustrated through Social Learning Theory. To understand violent criminal behavior we must examine perceptual thoughts, expectancies, competencies and values. (Bartol, 2002) This paper discusses social roles, the influence of intact or broken homes, and the type of aggression learned. These factors are important when we look at violent crime. Awareness of social problems or antisocial behavior can help early intervention. The social learning theory implies that internal as well as external forces play a significant role in developing behavior. Social theory suggests that people are born with the same abilities and a blank slate waiting to be written on. Children are bombarded with many things that they must learn at a young age. Through this time and into adolescence there paradigms are continuously being shaped and changed. This is a critical time, and problems at this stage of development, can show up as violent crime later on. The difference in male and female violent crime is a highly correlated with social conditioning.

Position

The gender difference in violent crime did not happen suddenly, it has been around for along time. Social learning differences in males and females are part of the reason why there is such a difference in the amount of crime committed. Looking at the early childhood development is a good place to start to try to understand this difference. Children change and shape in early childhood and adolescent due to social factors. We start to learn and comprehend things at a young age being very much a victim of our environment. Children are taught through their parents and peers in many different ways, this makes up their paradigm of the world. Children learn what acceptable behaviors are and what behaviors are not acceptable. This is learned vicariously (observing) or by a system of rewards and reinforcement (instrumental learning). They can also learn by classical conditioning which is a neutral response paired with a conditioned response to produce the effect of the conditioned response. Once paired together a couple of times the neutral stimuli becomes a conditioned response (Passer and Smith, 2001). Children begin to learn and accept social roles within the family. Males and females learn acceptable roles in their family through instrumental, classical, and observation.

Historically women are seen as nurturers, while men are seen as providers; although, there has been a move to equality, the old nurturer, provider roles still play a big part of how social learning occurs. As children start to play out these roles they become more like the parents and peers that they have observed. At a young age children are able to notice power differences within the home, even though they may not understand them (Boyanowsky, 2004). Theorists were reluctant to let women empower themselves because they were seen as a threat (Greer, 1970). At one point it was thought that if women were given the ability to change their social roles they would commit the same amount of violence as men. (Belknap, 2001) Women today have changed their role, they are much closer to equality then in the past and yet the UCR shows that the percentage difference between male and female crime has stayed consistent over time despite theses changes. These old roles should and are being abolished because they do not support a healthy way of perceiving the opposite sex. Problems occur when men and women do not grow up to think that they are equals as they do not respect each other. Disrespect leads to confrontations which can escalate into violence.

The psychosocial family characteristics of a family can be a determining factor of criminal behavior. Intact families supply a balanced,...
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