Sex differences in crime  

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Sex differences in crime are differences between men and women as the perpetrators and/or victims of crime.

Such studies may belong to fields such as criminology or sociobiology (which attempts to demonstrate a causal relationship between biological factors, in this case sex, and human behaviors), etc. Despite the difficulty to interpret them, crime statistics may provide a way to investigate such a relationship, whose possible existence would be interesting from a gender differences perspective. An observable difference in crime rates between men and women might be due to social and cultural factors, crimes going unreported, or to biological factors (as sociobiological theories claim). Furthermore, the nature of the crime itself must be considered.

Crime can be measured by such data as arrest records, imprisonment rates, and surveys. However, not all crimes are reported or investigated. Moreover, some studies show that men can have an overwhelming bias against reporting themselves to be the victims of a crime (particularly when victimized by a woman), and some studies have argued that women tend to get preferential treatment from law enforcement agencies and the courts.

Studies generally find that males are incarcerated for crimes more often than females, particularly for violent crimes. However, men are also generally more likely than women to be the victims of violent crime, with the exception of rape.


Gender is a factor that plays a role in both human and animal aggression. Males are generally more aggressive than females (Coi & Dodge 1997, Maccoby & Jacklin 1974), and men commit the vast majority of murders (Buss 2005). This is one of the most robust and reliable behavioral sex differences, and it has been found across many different age groups and cultures. There is evidence that males are quicker to aggression (Frey et al 2003) and more likely than females to express their aggression physically (Bjorkqvist et al. 1994). However, some researchers have suggested that females are not necessarily less aggressive, but that they tend to show their aggression in less overt, less physical ways (Bjorkqvist et al. 1994, Hines and Saudino 2003). For example, females may display more verbal and relational aggression, such as social rejection.

Attempts in various fields have tried to explore a possible relation between gender and crime. Such studies may belong to criminology, sociobiology (which attempts to demonstrate a causal relationship between biological factors, in this case sex, and human behaviors), etc. Despite the difficulty to interpret them, crime statistics may provide a way to investigate such a relationship, whose possible existence would be interesting from a gender differences perspective. An observable difference might be due to biological factors (as sociobiological theories claim) or to social and cultural factors. Furthermore, the nature of the crime itself must be considered. Gender and crime matters are often viewed through the perspective of violent crimes, in an attempt to justify common stereotypes that men are more "aggressive" than women. However, such a thesis has yet to be proven. It first requires a pre-definition of "aggressivity", usually related to alleged masculine traits. From a sociobiological point of view, or in the equally controversial field of behavioural genetics, it has included research on an alleged "gene of aggressivity." However, the existence of such a gene, and, more widely, of any specific gene governing, by itself, human behaviour, has been challenged by various geneticists . In The Gene Illusion (2002), Jay Joseph strongly opposed such sociobiological thesis, claiming that genetics could not explain human behavior.


There are multiple theories that seek to explain findings that males and females of the same species can have differing aggressive behaviors. However the conditions under which women and men differ in aggressiveness are not well understood. In general, sexual dimorphism can be attributed to greater intraspecific competition in one sex, either between rivals for access to mates and/or to be chosen by mates. This may stem from the other gender being constrained by providing greater parental investment, in terms of factors such as gamete production, gestation, lactation, or upbringing of young. Although there is much variation in species generally the more physically aggressive sex is the male, particularly in mammals. In species where parental care by both sexes is required there tends to be less of a difference. When the female can leave the male to care for the offspring, then females may be the larger and more physically aggressive. Competitiveness despite parental investment has also been observed in some species. A related factor is the rate at which males and females are able to mate again after producing offspring, and the basic principles of sexual selection are also influenced by ecological factors affecting the ways or extent to which one sex can compete for the other. The role of such factors in human evolution is controversial. The pattern of male and female aggression is argued to be consistent with evolved sexually-selected behavioral differences, while alternative or complimentary views emphasize conventional social roles stemming from physical evolved differences.

Aggression in women may have evolved to be, on average, less physically dangerous and more covert or indirect. However, there are critiques for using animal behavior to explain human behavior. Especially in the application of evolutionary explanations to contemporary human behavior, including differences between the genders.

In general, much research has suggested that males use more physical aggression than females. While females use more verbal aggression than males. Children interact with, and are aggressive toward,both same- and other-gender peers. There are more recent findings that show that differences in male and female aggression appear at about two years of age, though the differences in aggression are more consistent in middle-aged children and adolescence.Tremblay, Japel and Pérusse (1999) asserted that physically aggressive behaviors such as kicking, biting and hitting are age-typical expressions of innate and spontaneous reactions to biological drives such as anger, hunger, and affiliation. Girls’ relational aggression, meaning non-physical or indirect, tends to increase after age two while physical aggression decreases. There was no significant difference in aggression between males and females before two years of age. A possible explanation for this could be that girls develop language skills more quickly than boys therefore they have better ways of verbalizing their wants and needs. They are more likely to use communication when trying to retrieve a toy with the words "Ask nicely" or "Say please."

Many studies have found differences in the types of aggression used by males and females, at least in children and adolescents. Females between the ages of 10 and 14, around puberty age, show a more extreme rate of relational aggression compared to boys. These findings are true for Western society, but are not true of all cultures. In countries such as Kenya it has been found that young boys and girls have very similar rates of physical aggression. It has been found that girls are more likely than boys to use reactive aggression and then retract, but boys are more likely to increase rather than to retract their aggression after their first reaction. Studies show girls’ aggressive tactics included gossip, ostracism, breaking confidences, and criticism of a victim’s clothing, appearance, or personality, whereas boys engage in aggression that involves a direct physical and/or verbal assault. This could be due to the fact that girls’ frontal lobes develop earlier than boys, allowing them to self-restrain.

One factor that shows insignificant differences between male and female aggression is in sports. In sports, the rate of aggression in both contact and non-contact sports is relatively equal. Since the establishment of Title IX, female sports have increased in competitiveness and importance, which could contribute to the evening of aggression and the "need to win" attitude between both sexes. Among sex differences found in adult sports were that females have a higher scale of indirect hostility while men have a higher scale of assault. Another difference found is that men have up to 20 times higher levels of testosterone than women.

Some studies suggest that romantic involvement in adolescence decreases aggression in males and females, but decreases at a higher rate in females. Females will seem more desirable to their mate if they fit in with society and females that are aggressive do not usually fit well in society, they can often be viewed as antisocial. Female aggression is not considered the norm in society and going against the norm can sometimes prevent one from getting a mate. However, studies have shown that an increasing number of women are getting arrested for domestic violence charges. In many states, women now account for a quarter to a third of all domestic violence arrests, up from less than 10 percent a decade ago. The new statistics reflect a reality documented in research: women are perpetrators as well as victims of family violence. However, another equally possible explanation is a case of improved diagnostics: it has become more acceptable for men to report female domestic violence to the authorities while at the same time actual female domestic violence has not increased at all. This can be the case when men have become less ashamed of reporting female violence against them, therefore an increasing number of women are arrested, although the actual number of violent women remains the same.

Also, males in competitive sports are often advised by their coaches not to be in intimate relationships based on the premises that they become more docile and less aggressive during an athletic event. The circumstances in which males and females experience aggression are also different. A study showed that social anxiety and stress was positively correlated with aggression in males, meaning as stress and social anxiety increases so does aggression. Furthermore, a male with higher social skills has a lower rate of aggressive behavior than a male with lower social skills. In females, higher rates of aggression were only correlated with higher rates of stress. Other than biological factors that contribute to aggression there are physical factors are well.

Regarding sexual dimorphism, humans fall into an intermediate group with moderate sex differences in body size but relatively large testes. This is a typical pattern of primates where several males and females live together in a group and the male faces an intermediate amount of challenges from other males compared to exclusive polygyny and monogamy but frequent sperm competition.

Evolutionary psychology and sociobiology have also discussed and produced theories for some specific forms of male aggression such as sociobiological theories of rape and theories regarding the Cinderella effect.

See also

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