Women and Crime in Context

Feminist theory proposes that the interactions between patriarchal cultures and other factors such as the law can influence various aspects of womens lives. Parker and Reckdenwald (2008) have studied this theory in the context of inter-group differences amongst female criminals. They argue that it is difficult to apply many of the common theories of criminal behavior to female criminals because these theories have developed in the context of male criminal behavior. Evidence suggests that women commit crimes for very different reasons than men do. Whereas men may commit crimes of passion, or have a tendency towards career criminal behavior, women are more likely to commit crimes because of economic factors such as lack of adequate employment.

    Parker and Reckdenwald (2008) performed a study in which social structural variables such as economic stability, family dysfunction, and education and were studied in the context of female criminal behavior. First, they hypothesized that public patriarchy in terms of things such as economic marginalization would have a positive effect on female arrest rates. Put simply, women living on the economic margins of society are more likely to commit criminal acts whereas women in more stable economic situations are less likely to commit crimes. The second hypothesis states that women lower educational levels, living in lower income categories will be more likely to commit crimes. Finally, they hypothesized that private patriarchy in terms of marital status, and family dysfunction would have an influence on whether or not a woman committed a criminal act.

    The dependent variables in this study included the rates of violent crimes amongst women, and the rates of property crimes against women. Violent crimes include all armed crimes, rape, murder, assault and battery and child abuse. Property crimes include theft, forgery, fraud, vandalism and white collar crimes.  Dummy and control variables were created to substitute for missing arrest data, and for the number of police officers working in the rural and urban areas being measured during the year 2000-2001.

    The independent variables included the number of women that worked outside the home, the percentage of women who were married, and had children, unpaid family workers, of full time worker without adequate compensation or pay. They found that factors involving issues of public patriarchy such as employment and education had a significant influence on female crime levels. Economic disadvantage was the most significant of these factors with Parker and Reckdenwald (2008) finding a significant correlation between arrest rates, and the number of women living below the poverty line. Women living below the poverty line were more likely to commit, and to be arrested for property crimes than women living above the poverty line. This data supported both hypothesis one and hypothesis two. There were few significant results found for the influence of the private patriarchy on female crimes and arrest rates.

    This study has serious implications for the Criminal Justice field in terms of policy and research. Parker and Reckdenwalds (2008) results indicate that there are clear differences between why male offenders commit crimes, and why female offenders commit crimes. The implication of this is that in order to remedy the increasing number of women in Americas jails, professionals in Criminal Justice must also work with professionals in other fields such as Education and Human Services to remedy the conditions that cause women to commit crimes in the first place. Only by remedying the cause of female crime, and by adjusting our theoretical perspectives on why crimes occur, can we reduce the number of women who commit crimes. In conclusion, it can be stated that the main implication of this research study, is that the theoretical basis of the criminal justice field must be re-evaluated in terms of focusing upon why all criminals commit crimes, not just why male criminals commit crimes.


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