Gender Patters in Crime

Most crime appears to be committed by males (4/5). Among offenders, a higher proportion of females are convicted of property offences, while a higher proportion of males are convicted of violent or sexual offences. Males are more likely to commit serious crimes.

Do women commit less crime?

Some sociologists argue that the official statistics underestimate the amount of female offending. Two arguments have been put forward to support this view.

  • Female crimes are less likely to be reported
  • Even when they are reported, they are less likely to be prosecuted. This is because of the Chivalry thesis. The CJS are more lenient towards women because most social agents are men and they are taught to act ‘chivalrously’ towards women. Pollark- men have a protective attitude towards women so they are less likely to arrest.

Evidence for Chivalry thesis:

Self report studies suggest female offenders are treated leniently. Graham and Bowling found young males were 2.33 times more likely than females to admit to having committed an offence in the previous year-where as the official statistics show males 4x more likely to offend. Official statistics show females are more likely to receive a fine and less likely to be sent to prison.

Evidence against the Chivalry thesis

Farrington and Morris found women were not sentences more leniently for comparable offences. Box’s review of self-report studies concludes that women who commit more serious offences were not treated more favourably than men.

Buckle and Farrington witnessed twice as many males shoplifting despite the fact that the number of male and female offenders in the official statistics are roughly equal. This suggests women shoplifters are more likely to be prosecuted compared to males.

Bias against women

Feminists argue that the CJS is not biased in favour of women, as the chivalry thesis claims, but biased against them. They argue that CJS treats women more harshly, especially when they deviate from gender norms of monogamous heterosexuality and motherhood, Carlen found Scottish courts were more likely to jail women whose children were in care than women whom they saw as good mothers.

Explaining female crime

Overall, women in general do seem to have a lower rate of offending than men.