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Criminal Behavior - Essay Example

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Until only recently the female role in criminal activity was treated with indifference and merely an anecdotal story of women that were not as much criminal as simply disobedient or mentally ill. However, the sharp contrasts that once differentiated male and female offenders have begun to blur and in many areas have taken on some striking similarities between the sexes…
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Download file to see previous pages An investigation of male and female criminal activity will see a shift in female behavior that has been influenced by social and cultural pressures, and a narrowing of the gap between male and female perpetrators.
Recent decades have seen an increasing prevalence of female criminals and the crimes that they commit have become more violent. During the 10-year period from 1986 to 1997 the adult male correctional population increased by 67 percent, while the women's population increased by 100 percent (Demographic trends, 2008). Still, crime is an activity that is dominated by males as 5 percent of them are under some form of correctional supervision in the US compared with only 1 percent of the female population. However, female crimes have become more violent in nature. In 1989, 13 percent of the crimes committed by females were violent in nature, but that number had increased to 17 percent by 2002 (US Department of Justice, 2004). In addition, in the year 2000 women constituted 6.7 percent of the total state and federal prison population, and that number had increased to 7.2 percent in 2007 (US Department of Justice, 2008). Data from a variety of sources verifies that women have become more active in crime in a more violent fashion.
The contrast between male and female crime and the shift in demographics in recent years can help give an indication of the motivations that underlie criminal activity. Emotion has a far lesser impact on a man's decision to commit a crime than it does for a female. When men commit a crime it is often the result of learned behavior that has been the result of social interaction. Ramoutar & Farrington (2006) report that, "According to social learning theory, if individuals have ample opportunity to observe aggressive or violent behaviour, this will increase the chance that they will learn to value violence and incorporate it into their behavioural repertoire" (p.562). These behaviour patterns are learned from parents, family members, social networks, and promoted through the culture of the popular media. The male dominated society has traditionally tolerated male violence and males are responding to the motivation of perpetuating the existing social norms (Women's Aid, 2005, p.7). Social and cultural norms are at the foundation of the difference in male and female demographics in regards to the types of crimes committed. Women commit violent acts as a means of reacting to their socially repressed status, while males commit violent acts as a learned behavior and minimizes the act based on society's acceptance of male domination.
While social learning is a factor that impacts a male's decision to commit a crime, it is also a factor that discourages women from criminal activity. Social control theory further states that "human beings have a natural tendency to engage in antisocial behavior, irrespective of gender" and that strong community, family, workplace, and social ties all contribute to a person's reluctance to engage in criminal activity (Li & MacKenzie, 2003, p.279). According to Corbett (2007) there are significant "informal pressures and sanctions placed on women by family to conform to appropriate gender prescribed behaviours that discourage deviance" (p.258). Women have traditionally been perceived as the 'weaker sex' and sheltered from the male dominated activities associated with ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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