Gender differences in criminality among heroin users

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Female crime has been explained in terms of feminist and traditional (control, cultural deviance, commitment to conventional institutions) theories. In this study, self-reported arrests were examined for 170 female and 202 male heroin users in treatment to determine if these theories differ in their capacity to account for female as opposed to male criminality. The results indicate that control theory best explains female arrests, perhaps because breakdowns in familial supervision have more devastating impact on females. On the other hand, it is conceivable that this relationship might reflect biased treatment of unsupervised females by the juvenile justice system, thus creating an association between crime and familial detachment. Cultural deviance predictors were fairly effective in explaining male arrests but had no impact on female arrests. In fact, the most criminal females were those least attached to deviant subcultures. It was argued that these results reflect the absence of a subcultural image to reinforce female crime. Finally, the analysis of feminist predictors indicates that it is the most traditional females who report the most arrests. It is suggested that the limited criminal opportunities available to deviant females and the consequent need for many to attach themselves to males in passive, dependent relationships may select for such traditionalism in female criminals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)329-353
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Research in Crime and Delinquency
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 1985
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology


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