Assess explanations that sociologists have offered for lower levels of convictions of woman for criminal offences Sociologists have offered explanations for lower levels of convictions for woman for criminal offences. For example women are treated more leniently and woman are socialised to commit less crime in the first place. Most crime appears to be committed by men. According to recent national statistics men are four times more likely to commit a crime than woman. For example official statistics suggests there are gender differences in the types of crimes committed such as men committee violent crime and woman committee shoplifting. One explanation for the lower levels of convictions of women is that they are treated more leniently. One explanation that has been put forward is that the agents of criminal justice such as police officers, magistrates and judges are men and men are socialised to act in a chivalrous manner towards women. In the 1950s Pollack argued that men felt they had to protect women, so the criminal justice system is more lenient towards them.
So there are some crimes that are less likely to turn into official statistics. This then does not give an accurate understanding in rates of offending and official statistics will show the extent of gender differences. Women are also more likely than men to be cautioned rather than prosecuted. For example, the Ministry of justice figures for 2009, show that 49% of female offenders were cautioned compared to only 30% of men. Similarly Hood’s study of over 3,000 defendants found that woman were about one-third less likely to be jailed in similar cases. However, there is evidence against the chivalry thesis. Box argues women who commit serious offences are not treated more favourably than men. He argues women show remorse which may be why they get cautioned rather than going to court. Heidensohn argues that in fact when women commit more serious crimes and deviate from expected norms of behaviour they are punished more harshly.
For example stereotypical gender roles influence judges decisions. Heidensohn accepts there has been an increase in female crime but it’s due to poverty and being socially marginalised. Walklate argues that in rape case it is often not the defendant who is on trial but the victim. Steffensmeier argues that women are treated more leniently in court because judges are reluctant to separate woman from their children. Another reason that could explain lower conviction rates for women is that they are socialised to commit less crime in the first place. Functionalists argue that lower levels of females crime can be explained by gender role socialisation and the expressive role that Parsons argues is the one that women take on within the home. While men go out to work and take the instrumental role as provider, women are socialised to be gentle and nurturing. Parsons argues that boys reject feminine role models they engage in what Parson calls compensatory compulsory masculinity and become aggressive and anti-social behaviour which can slip over into an act of delinquency.
Cohen argues that boys that are more likely to join gangs to gain stats and identity. Whereas the girls have their mothers as role models which means they are less likely to behave in anti-social ways. However, critics of the sex role theory are that this view is dated and boys and girls have different role models and influences in their life to the ones illustrated by Parsons. Walklate criticises sex role theory for its biological assumptions. Parson assumes that women are best suited to the expressive role as women gave birth to children. Feminists are interested in how patriarchal society controls women, and this control might explain lower levels of criminality and therefore lower conviction rates. Heidensohn argues the most different thing about women’s behaviour is how conformist it is as women commit fewer crimes than men. Heidensohn notes that women are controlled in a number of ways. For example women are controlled by the amount of time they have to spend looking after home and children.
Also in the public domain women are controlled by the threat of male violence especially sexual violence. The Islington Crime Survey found that 54% of women avoided going out alone. This therefore reduces their opportunity to offend. However Carlen explains how some women commit crime when they are let down by patriarchal society. It is the failure of patriarchal society to deliver the promised deals that removes the controls. Cohen argues that working class women are led to conform by what she calls the class deal which is being offered rewards at work that allow a good standard of living. Also the gender deal where women have rewards from family life by living a normal domestic gender role. Critics argue that this underplays the importance of free will and choice in offending. Adler argues that as society changes so women may turn to crime.
He uses the liberation thesis to argue that as women become liberated from patriarchy female crime rates will rise. As society changes so too have women’s roles within it. There is evidence to support this for example female offending rates have risen. However, critics argue that female crime rates started growing in the 1950s before the women’s liberation movement. In conclusion, the main reason why there are lower levels of convictions of women is because the criminal justice system is more lenient towards women. This is due to men protecting the women and official statistics show that men are more likely to commit crime than women.