Gendered Opportunities and Risk Preferencesfor Offending Across the Life Course

Jennifer Schwartz, Darrell Steffensmeier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Purpose: Research on girls’ and women’s pathways into and out of offending has flourished. To further the study of gender, offending, and the life course, a coherent conceptual framework is needed to make sense of extant research and appropriately take into account gendering of the life course, especially as it intersects with other social locations. Integrating interactionist, relational, and social psychological approaches to decision-making and feminist perspectives relating to power and patriarchy, we theorize about the interplay between agency and structure across the life course in shaping the willingness and ability of females and males to engage in crime and criminal enterprise. Methods: We analyzed quantitative and qualitative research on female pathways into/out of crime, relating to violence, ordinary property crime, white-collar crime, drug trade/abuse, and sex work to address between- and within-sex differences in type, frequency, and context of offending over the life course. Results: The gendered paradigm of offending identifies female agency and offending pathways as shaped by (a) culturally influenced gendered focal concerns and risk preferences; (b) gender-stratified crime markets and opportunities (e.g., gender differences in selection processes, resources, capability, access); and (c) gendered bodies (e.g., real and putative biological and reproductive sex differences). Conclusions: Female agency and offending pathways are constructed at various life course stages within the constraints and circumstances of gendered cultural concerns and risk preferences and gender-stratified crime markets, accounting for within and between sex differences in criminal offending and participation in criminal enterprise.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)126-150
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Developmental and Life-Course Criminology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Applied Psychology
  • Law
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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