Sex Differences in Patterns of Adult Crime, 1965-77: A Review and Assessment

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This report examines current conceptions of sex differences in adult crime trends and assesses continued differences in female relative to male criminality. Our analysis relies mainly on national arrest statistics of the Uniform Crime Reports, but our treatment of these statistics goes considerably beyond that of previous analysts. Our interpretation of the national data is supplemented by a variety of localized studies of police and court statistics as well as by autobiographical and case history studies of thieves. In contrast to popular and scientific claims, we question whether female crime is rising and whether women are catching up with males in the commission of masculine, violent, serious, male-dominated and white-collar types of crime. The arrest gains of females are in the category of vagrancy and in the petty-property crime categories of larceny, fraud, and forgery.Alternative views concerning female crime and the forces shaping it are suggested. It is proposed that the factors shaping sex differences in arrest patterns are changes in reporting procedures and law enforcement practices, economic factors, the maintenance of traditional conceptions of female roles, limited access to illegitimate opportunities due to restricted participation in the legitimate labor market, and the absence of viable female criminal subcultures or of access to male criminal subcultures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1080-1108
Number of pages29
JournalSocial Forces
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 1 1980

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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