Functionalist Sex Role

Parsons functionalist explanation focuses on gender socialisation and role models in the nuclear family to explain gender differences in crime.

  • Women perform the expressive role at home, including responsibility for socialisation. This gives girls an adult role model, but boys reject feminine models of behaviour.
  • Instead, boys’ distance themselves by engaging in risk taking, aggression and anti-social behaviour. The absence of male role model (Cohen) means boys are more likely to turn to all male street gangs as a source of masculinity.

Feminist theories contract with functionalism, feminists explain gender differences in offending in terms of patriarchy. There are tow main feminist approaches: control theory and liberation thesis. Walklate criticises parsons for assuming that because women are biologically capable of childbearing, they are best suited to the expressive role. Thus, although parsons claim to explain gender differences in crime in terms of socialisation, his explanation is based on biological assumptions about sex differences.

Heidensohn: Patriarchal Control

He argues that women commit fewer crimes than men because patriarchal society imposes greater control over women, thus reducing their opportunities to offend. Patriarchal control operates at home, in public and t work.

At Home: Women’s domestic role imposes severe restrictions on their time and movement and confines them in the house for hours long which reduces opportunities to offend. Men are able to impose this role on women by threatening them with DV. Daughters are also subjected to control with restrictions on going out or staying out late. They then turn to the bedroom culture.

In Public: women are controlled in public places by fear of male sexual violence, making them stay in doors or being careful about how they dress so they don’t attract any males, along with needing to look respectable.

Control at Work: Women’s subordinate position at work reduces criminal opportunities. The ‘glass ceiling’ prevents women from rising to senior positions where there are more opportunities to commit white collar crime.