Criminal Justice - Gender and Crime Homicidal Thesis

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Criminal Justice - Gender and Crime

HOMICIDAL CRIMES and GENDER DIFFERENCES I. Demographic and Historical Distribution:

Criminologists have long believed that crime rates are at least partially attributable to social factors in society that affect individuals differently (Macionis, 2003). In particular, race, social class, age and gender correlate strongly to incidence of criminal behavior. Race has been implicated as one factor by virtue of the fact that while Caucasians account for nearly 70% of all criminal arrests, African-Americans account for a disproportionate amount of crime in relation to their representation in the population. Specifically, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), African-Americans accounted for 31% of all arrests for property crimes and 37.8% of all violent crimes including homicide in 2000, despite representing only 12.3% (Macionis, 2003).

Historically, social class is also closely related to criminality, in that economically deprived social environments and the relative lack of the same vocational opportunities available in poor communities correspond to higher crime rates than observed in middle class and upper class communities (Schmalleger, 2001). However, sociologists have pointed out that much of the difference between those figures relates to the fact that criminal statistics tend to focus much more on street crimes, property crimes, and crimes of violence against persons. When so-called "white collar" crimes are included in the statistical overview of criminality and social class, much less disparity is observed.

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Likewise, even though low-income communities are associated with higher reported crime rates, most individuals living in those communities are not involved in criminal activity; in fact, a small number of individuals tend to perpetrate the vast majority of crimes in socially deprived communities (Macionis, 2003). More importantly, the crime of homicide is committed by an even smaller subset of criminals, both in general as well as within socially deprived communities (Keel, 2008).

Thesis on Criminal Justice - Gender and Crime Homicidal Assignment

Age is associated with crime and the statistical evidence demonstrates a marked increase in crime during the adolescent years and spike most sharply in the late teen years (Macionis, 2003). According to the FBI, individuals between the age of fifteen and twenty-four accounted for nearly 40% of all arrests for violent crimes and nearly half of all property crimes in 2000 despite the fact that this age group represented only 14% of the population. The FBI reports that arrests for the most serious crimes (i.e. rape, robbery, arson and homicide) increased steadily throughout the decade preceding those 2000 statistics (Macionis, 2003).

For as long as criminal statistics have been recorded, the vast majority of all crimes have been attributed to males (Schmalleger, 2001). Specifically, whereas each gender represents approximately half the population, male offenders have accounted for approximately three-quarters of all reported crimes. More particularly, males account for an even higher percentage (approximately 83%) of crimes of violence including homicide (Macionis, 2003).

In general, the disparity between male and female criminality varies closely in proportion to the degree of physical violence involved with males consistently being involved more often in physical assaults and homicidal crimes. This relationship appears consistent regardless of the source or types of data compiled (Scmalleger, 2001).

However, whereas homicides committed by males span a much wider range in terms of their particular circumstances, those committed by females illustrate a very distinct pattern. Specifically, the largest class of homicides committed by females involve crimes against husbands or significant others rather than crimes against strangers or homicides committed in furtherance of other criminal activity such as in connection with property crimes or assaults for the purpose of monetary gain (Ogle, Maier-Katkin & Bernard, 1995).

Male homicides frequently involve family and significant others as well; in fact, males still commit homicides much more frequently against their spouses and significant others (in addition to infanticide and eldercide) than females. However, whereas male homicides are spread across the myriad circumstances in which such crime may occur, female homicide is clustered very narrowly around domestic crimes of intimacy involving significant others (USDOJ, 2007).

Various explanations have been offered to explain the disparity, including greater biological tendencies toward violence (Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2005), law enforcement biases (Macionis, 2003), as well as various applications of sociological theories of deviance and criminality, such as gender role identity, General Strain Theory, Merton's Strain Theory, and more recently, the Structured Action Theory of crime as it relates to gender.

II. Criminology Theories and Gender Differences in Homicidal Crimes:

A. Merton's General Strain Theory of Deviant Behavior

Emile Durkheim introduced the concept of anomie in the 19th century, to describe the general sense of purposelessness experienced by individuals who lacked a strong sense of personal social identity, many of whom also perceived themselves to be out of synch with societal goals and normative values (Macionis, 2003). Twentieth century sociologist and professor Robert Merton used Durkheim's anomie concept as the basis for his strain theory of deviant behavior, according to which modern society establishes a set of values or criteria for defining the characteristics expected of individuals. Merton suggested that the individual who successfully achieves the goals and expectations promoted by society is comparatively happier, more content, and better adjusted than the individual who fails to do so (Macionis 2003).

As pertains to criminality, Merton's strain theory also suggests that one of the underlying causes of deviance (including but not strictly limited to criminality) is the internal psychological discord (or strain) associated with the individual's frustration at failing to achieve major elements of one's socially expected role in society. While strain theory does not relate specifically to homicide, it still offers a very relevant view of possible reasons some individuals become criminals. Merton According to criminologists, homicides committed in the course of furthering criminal enterprises (as opposed to homicides motivated by animus or rage toward another person) are planned deliberately much less often than they simply occur in the course of pursuing other criminal activity, most often for profit (Keen, 2008).

In fact, Merton's strain theory explains more about why individuals despondent over their perceived failures turn to crime than why criminals perpetrate the specific crime of homicide. On the other hand, those who are criminally inclined by virtue of social strains are obviously at a much higher risk of committing homicide than are non-criminals.

In contemporary society (as well as in many primitive societies), the social role prescribed for males is more susceptible to triggering the strains described by Merton than the corresponding roles expected of females. Generally, males have traditionally been expected to become providers for their families and to fill various other competitive roles. In principle, females are also susceptible to social strains, but their roles more often relate to motherhood and the private care of their families at home.

Certainly, women who remain single longer than they wish or who remain barren in marriage experience social strains arising from their "failures" but their degree of shame and frustration is less likely to rise to the level of that experienced by males who fail to achieve any social power or status, or who cannot hold a steady job, or who must fill subservient roles that they consider demeaning just to earn a living (Macionis 2003).

But criminality does not present an alternate means of achieving the goals expected for females to reach (i.e. motherhood) the way it does provide some means for males to mimic social success by acquiring some of the benefits or symbols of social success (i.e. monetary wealth or material possessions).

Therefore, males who experience a high degree of social strain might very well suffer more from it; more importantly, they have a much greater opportunity to acquire some of what they have failed to achieve in socially positive ways through criminally deviant behavior. To the extent that strain theory relates to criminal deviance (including the proportion of crime that leads to homicide), it would provide some explanation for dramatically higher rates of homicide (as well as other crimes) among males than females by virtue of both increased intensity of the individual's response to social strains as well as greater opportunity to achieve certain goals expected of men in the manner described by Merton's strain theory of deviance.

B. Agnew's Strain Theory of Criminology

Agnew (1992) expanded the scope of Merton's original proposition by suggesting that strain theory is not necessary limited to issues of social status and to the specific notion of adopting a life of crime as an alternate means of achieving what the individual has failed to achieve with respect to societal expectations and relative social status.

Agnew did not discount the possible role of strain theory as a factor in the individual's descent into deviance and criminality. Rather, Agnew suggested that strain applied much more generally to a wider range of frustrations and personal disappointments.

Significantly, Agnew (1992) emphasized the degree to which anger contributed to responses described by general strain theory. Instead of conceiving of strain theory as something that pertained only to the individual's relative success (or lack thereof) with respect to fundamental roles, responsibilities, or characteristics prescribed by society, Anew suggested that strain resulted from… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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