Last Updated 28 Jan 2021

Why are there so many more male offenders than female?

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Why are there so many more male offenders than female?

Crime is generally committed by the male pursuit but more and more women are starting to play a role init. There are many Factors which contribute to why there are more male prisoners than female. This assignment will go into depth and detail discussing all evidence behind it. It will overall provide an explanation to why there is more criminal behaviour in males than females. This will include criminological theories which will be put forward to explain criminal behaviour in both genders.

Firstly the key issue surrounding this topic is why there are more male prisoners than female and make sense to why this is. Generally the crimes female commit differ from male criminality. Women appear as offenders in all categories of offences from the least serious to the most serious (Hedenson, 1989). Robert 1977 in United States males are more dominant in burglary, drunkenness, auto theft, robbery, driving under influence, posseion of weapons and sex offences. Females predominate in offences relating to prostitution. Murders are more predominant in male’s activity. (Wilson) majority of victims of murders are males. 2001 indicate that 42% of female. The crime committed by women has more of an emotional characteristic then those committed by men. The pattern of women committing fewer crimes than men continues as there are only 19% of known women offenders. Women are more likely experience domestic violence. Their current or former partner murders two women every week and 44% of violent incidents against women are domestic. Facts and Statistics are looked at thoroughly in England and Wales by the Home Office and provide the following picture of male and female offending. In 2002; 81 per cent of known offenders were male, and 19 per cent female. Soothill et al (2002) have estimated that 35 per cent of males born in 1958 will have had a criminal conviction by the age of thirty-five; and for women the figure is 9 per cent. According to the statistics of female offenders in prison, most are in for drugs, theft and handling stolen property offences, these accounts for 60% of known female offenders. 15% of sentenced female prisoners have previously been admitted to a psychiatric hospital and over 40% of sentenced women prisoners have been reported as being dependent on drugs in the year before coming to prison. An estimated 20% of women in prison have gone through separation from their parents and have spent some time in care. There have been major controversies on the different roles played by each gender in accordance to crime.

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Theorists have been questioning this by looking at social, biological and psychological explanations. They have been used to develop theories to explain why females commit crime and why they commit less crime than males. Theories have over the years developed progressively further by the body work on gender in criminology and social sciences in general. Theorist has stated the casual role of biological and psychological factors in female crime show masculine factors. Cesare Lombroso puts forward the explanation that ‘criminals are atavistic throwbacks and that crime results from a reversion to their more primitive state’.

He studied the skulls and bones of women criminal and prostitutions. He also compared factors such as history of both criminal and non-criminal females.Lombroso declared that ‘any physical characteristic that were more common in the criminal group were atavistic’. He viewed women as a’ lower form of life than men.’ Judging from his experiences (and prejudices) lead him to believe that criminals were different physically from normal people and had physical characteristics of savages and inferior animals. The term ‘Born criminals’ that had atavistic qualities and had committed crimes due to mental conditions e.g. general paralysis, dementia, pellagra, alcoholism, epilepsy, idiocy, or hysteria. He also claimed that women are able to adapt to unappealing environment than men hence why they turn to prostitution as an alternative to crime. Lombroso and Ferrerero book titled ‘The Female Offender’ described females as deceitfulness, cunning, spite, amongst others which they claim none of which appeared among males. This indicates that criminal females are more genetically like males than none criminal females and such biological abnormal.Moreover, according to Tarde, Lombroso’s theory did not explain the lower rate of criminality among women having the same stigmata. Other theorists such as WI Thomas accepted Lombroso’s account of inferiority and passivity of women, however he did not agree on the theory that criminal women are more like men. In his book, ‘The Unadjusted Girl’ blames female crime on the traditional constraints placed upon them. Resulting from these women have the desire for recognition, and in order to obtain this many females get involved in illegal activities. He discusses that everyone has four main duties in life, desire for new experiences, security, and response, and recognition. Thomas considered that women maintain their virtue until marriage, but these women used their sexuality to obtain whatever they want. Women were seen having feeling confined under monogamy, and having a lot sexual energy, this was released in criminal acts. Sigmund Freud suggested that the explanation to why women commit crime may be due to not being able to fully resolve the Oedipus complex. As they have a great deal of need for the males to approve them they rule out the risk by committing crime. The exceptional female who does offend is seen as suffering from extreme penis envy and, in a desire to be a man, takes an aggressive, non-conforming attitude that may result in criminal behaviour. Freud believed that all individuals are born with a potential to become a criminal due to basic instinct leading to anti-social behaviour. By analysing boys and girls Freud came to the conclusion that due to genetic differences women are more passive than men. Freud agreed with Lombroso in that female criminality rejects passivity and tries very hard to be like men. However, while, in theory, women have similar opportunities as men to commit crime these may be limited by other factors such as employment, as fewer women than men work, less opportunity exists. Women are also more likely than men to have primary responsibility for are child-care, which restricts opportunities for various types of criminal behaviour. It is perhaps true that female crime can often explain as women’s unusual response to lack of opportunity and school failure. It is a desperate attempt to escape from poverty rather than, as in the case of many men, an aggressive response to their social situation. Courts may deal more leniently with females. However, it appears that when women commit crimes that go against male stereotypes of femininity, women tend to be more harshly punished than men are. This can be seen with crimes involving violence. Scientists have suggested that the brain differences between male and female is an essential reason why women are more likely to stay out of harm’s way. Current research has demonstrated that females, on average, have a larger deep limbic system than males. Due to this, women are more in touch with their feelings; they have an increased ability to bond and are connected to others.Allen’s study is exceptional in suggesting that violent women offenders received more sympathetic sentences and justice than men did. Typical Cultures where the female stays at home doing housework and looking after the children also reduces female crime rate as there would be less opportunities to commit crime. Females undergoing domestic violence due to culture can however commit one of the biggest crimes. True story by Kiranjit Ahluwalia and Rahila Gupta describes how Kiranjit went through 10 years of domestic violence and eventually loses it one night and sets her husband on fire whilst he was sleeping. Though this story is based on the life of Kiranjit Ahluwalia, parallels can be drawn to the lives of many women who are the victims of domestic violence. It also shows how culture, family value and honour are misconstrued and misinterpreted to allow women no freedom and men no restrictions. Gang culture affects the skew of sexual assaults to being predominant in male activity, violence and rape is cheered on in males as masculinity. Another factor to consider is feminisation poverty (currie 1985). High proportions of women tend to commit crime such as burglary in order to put food on the table for their children for the same reason benefit fraud could be committed. Survey conducted 1994 women in prisons are mostly mothers who have committed an offence for the following reasons; having no money (54%) mixing with the wrong crowd (46%) need to support children (38%) drink and drugs (35%) family problems(33%) having no job (33%) however males tend to engage in burgulary for more or less the same reason. Pasko (2004) stated young females tend to commit crime through the rough experience they live through. An example would be young female runaways who experience abuse and then being returned home by caring professionals who end up experiencing more abuse.

Age is another factor that has a relationship between offending behaviour and sex. Tarling 1993 showed criminal statistics for England and Wales showing that the peak age of young males offending was 18 in 1990 and for female it was 15. Males are more likely to commit offences that would be committed by young people offenders were as females tend to commit crime that are done by older people. Females may be committing crime committed by older people due to the family responsibilities they may have therefore this might be re-labelled a ‘crime and responsibility thesis. More Males are likely to commit crime at a younger age due to the environmental influences they encounter as they develop through age. Influences such as violent video games, TV, films and violent role models may play a key role to why there are so many more male offenders than females. “By the time the average U.S. child starts elementary school he or she will have seen 8,000 murders and 100,00 acts of violence on TV.”(New Scientist, 2007).

The relationship between gender differences, and criminal behaviour is complex and varied, there are no simple answers. A number of factors must be taken into account, and the environmental influences and cultural traditions can be seen as the most important ones.


Home office. (2003). Gender crime. Available: Last accessed 4th April 2011

New Scientist. (2007). Tv film violence. Available: Last accessed 5th April 2011.

Carl Austin, Rahila Gupta. (2007). Provoked true story review. Available: Last accessed 4th April 2011.

Rita James Simon, Heather Ahn-Redding (2005). The crimes women commit: the punishments they receive. london: Lexington Books. pg65-90

Meda Chesney-Lind, Lisa Pasko (2003). The female offender: girls, women, and crime . london: SAGE Publications Ltd. pg-3-18.

Kathleen Daly (1996). Gender, Crime, and Punishment. America: Yale University Press. pg-88-111.

Hub pages-Jan- Tutor (2007) why do women commit Crime Last accessed 5th April 2011

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