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Gender and crime

By alicampbell04 Feb 26, 2014 662 Words
Using material from item A and elsewhere, assess explanations for apparent gender differences in involvement in crime (21 marks) As Frances Heidensohn observes, gender differences are perhaps the ‘most significant feature of recorded crime’. Most theories that explain crime implicitly accept that males are more likely than females to commit crime therefore most sociologists conduct research to establish why some males commit crime and others don’t with few studying the reasons why males are more likely to commit crime than women. One theory that examine why women are less likely to commit crime is the biological explanation. This theory starts with the belief that women are innately different form men with a natural desire to be caring and nurturing, therefore ‘normal women’ are less likely to commit crime. A weakness of this explanation is that it is extremely reductionist and doesn’t take into account other factors such as socialisation. To provide a counter argument which reduces the usefulness of this theory Dalton (1964) claims that hormonal and menstruating factors can influence women to commit crime. An alternative to the biological explanation is sex role theory which claims that women are less likely to commit crime due to the core elements that limit their opportunities to do so. Sex role theorists believe that girls are socialised differently to boys with Parsons arguing that child rearing is carried out by the mothers so girls have a clear role model to follow who emphasises caring and support. Although a strong sociological explanation, sex role theory doesn’t explain crime in relation to single parent fathers who socialise the children where boys would have a strong role model to follow. Furthermore it doesn’t explain why girls who are socialised by males do not commit crime therefore it is not a complete theory. Instead of explaining why women don’t commit crime some sociologists like Messerschmidt with his theory of normative masculinity explain why males do commit crime. Messerschmidt, as stated in item A, says men struggle to live up to the expectations in society therefore masculinity is not something natural but is something that needs to be achieved like an accomplishment. This is done in different ways depending on how much power that male has. More powerful men will express their masculinity in the workplace however those who are unable to do this will show violent behaviour in the street or at home. This is a useful theory which looks at the influence of patriarchy however most men who don’t have power at work do not turn to violence at home showing that this theory is not entirely true and valid. Accommodating masculinity theory takes into account social class when providing an explanation why middle class males commit crime. This theory states that middle class boys don’t like authority in school however they ‘bite their tongues’ in class and wait until they are free from school to express their masculinity. This leads them to perform petty crime such as vandalism. This theory is useful as it takes into account why one specific group of males commit crime however there is no mention of middle class girls and their reaction to authority. Finally Lyng’s theory of edgework says that young males search for pleasure through risk taking. This risk-taking is seen as edgework, by this he means that there is a thrill to be gained which is in-between security and danger. This theory relates back to Messerschmidt and achieving masculinity as Lyng says that this risk taking helps young males to accomplish masculinity through acts such as car theft and engaging in violent confrontations. In conclusion although these theories provide explanations for the trend between gender and crime none of them explain why women commit crime, they only explain why men commit crime and women don’t therefore further research needs to be conducted in order for us to have a true picture about the reasons of crime for all groups in society.

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