Explaining lower female crime rates: biological theories

Do biological differences between men and women explain why women commit much less crime than men?

Biological Theories explain the higher rates of crime in terms of biological differences between males and females. The most obvious example of such a theory is that men have higher testosterone levels than women and thus have higher levels of aggression which is related to higher levels of violent crime

Some research has linked high testosterone levels to the higher rates of male offending and the more serious crimes of male offenders compared to women

Men, in general, are much more aggressive than women — a fact that has led researchers to investigate possible links between levels of male hormones (particularly testosterone) and aggressive or criminal behavior.

James Dabbs studied 4,462 men in 1990 and found that “the overall picture among the high-testosterone men is one of delinquency, substance abuse and a tendency toward excess.” These men, he added, “have more trouble with people like teachers while they are growing up, have more sexual partners, and are more likely to have used hard drugs,” particularly if they had poor education and low incomes. A separate study by Dabbs of young male prison inmates found that high testosterone levels were associated with more violent crimes, parole board decisions against release, and more prison rule violations. Even in women, Dabbs found, high testosterone levels were related to crimes of unprovoked violence, increased numbers of prior charges, and decisions against parole.

A more recent study by Dabbs et al., which pooled data from two groups of prisoners, measured testosterone levels in the saliva of 692 adult male prisoners. The researchers found that inmates who committed crimes of sex and violence had higher testosterone levels than inmates who were incarcerated for property crimes or drug abuse. In addition, they say, “inmates with higher testosterone levels… violated more rules in prison, especially rules involving overt confrontation.”

Evaluations of Biological Theories…

  • There is no difference between non-criminals and men with convictions for non-violent crimes. ž
  • Finding a high correlation between violent men in prison, does not distinguish between cause and effect. Prison, is not the safest place to be, so raised testosterone might have been an effect of being in prison. It is equally likely that a violent lifestyle leads to high testosterone level. ž
  • In general the studies on testosterone and human aggression reach the conclusion that testosterone is involved but is not a prime factor

Gender and Crime Statistics

The latest available figures are from Women and the Criminal Justice System 2019, published by the Ministry of Justice in November 2020.

The figures show that women commit less crime than men, and less serious crimes than men.

This is an important update for the gender and crime topic which makes up part of the A-level sociology crime and deviance module.

There are approximately equal numbers of men and women in the population as a whole, but 85% of people arrested are male, around 75% of those prosecuted are male and 95% of people who go to prison are male, meaning women only make up 5% of the total prison population.

Both the male and female crime rates seem to have been declining over the last five years of statistics, with fewer men and women being dealt with by the criminal justice system.

The male crime rate does seem to be declining faster than the female crime rate, with the female crime rate seeming to level off somewhat more recently.

Men Commit more serious crimes than women (I)

‘Indictable offenses’ in the darkest blue below are those more serious offences dealt with by the crown court. Men are twice as likely to be on trial for an indictable offence compared to women.

78% of males are in court for summary (less serious offences) compared to 90% of women, and men are more likely to on trial for motoring offences!

Men commit more serious crimes than women (II)

The chart below shows you that for the more serious, indictable offences such as violence and robbery, men commit around 85-90% of these, but for sexual offenses 98% of offenders are men, only 2% are women.

The most equal in terms of gender are fraud offences and summary non-motoring offences….

Women only make up 5% of the prison population

This is related to their committing less crime and less serious crime than men, although some sociologists (read on!) have argued this is because the courts are more lenient towards women (others argue it’s the opposite, saying the course are harsher towards women.

Why are Black People Stopped and Searched more Often by the Police?

The latest figures on Police Stop and Search show that black people are now nine times more likely than white people to be stopped and searched by the police.

This is a key statistics relevant to the A-level Sociology crime and deviance module. And I must say this is a thoroughly depressing trend, as the last time I updated this it was ‘6 times’ more likely, so the disproportion in stop and search has gotten worse!

The figures show that 6/1000 white people were stopped and searched by the police in the last year, compared to 54/1000 black people.

It is also interesting to note that ‘black other’ has a much higher rate than all other ‘black’ or any other sub category of ethnic group.

Asian people are now three times more likely than white people to be stopped and searched.

Why are Black People Stopped by the Police more Often?

This increase in disproportion of stop and search has been investigated by the media recently.

Channel Four News recently put together an item in 2020 covering the topic:

They frame the issue of stop and search in the context of the ‘British Police’s Long History of Race Relations’, reminding us of the following key events:

  • 1981 – Brixton Riots – when young black people felt over policed and Under-protected.
  • 1985 – the death of Cynthia Jarret after police officers searched her home in North London.
  • The video points out that there were also disturbances over police racism in Birmingham in 1981 and 1985, so this wasn’t just a London issue.
  • The flawed police inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence by four white men is mentioned next, and the fact that the 1999 Mcpherson Inquiry found the MET to be institutionally racist.
  • In 2011 Mark Duggan was shot and killed in London while police tried to arrest him, sparking Riots in several cities across the UK.
  • Finally, during Lockdown, you’re twice as likely to be fined for breaking Lockdown in London if you’re black compared to if you’re white.

The police have responded to the accusations of racism by trying to do more outreach initiatives with communities and recruit more people from Black and Ethnic Minority backgrounds, however, the police’s own figures still show that black people are ten times more likely than white people (I guess they rounded up!) to be stopped and searched by the police.

Black people are also more than twice as likely to die in custody than white people.

The video mainly focuses on an interview with Neil Basu – assistant commissioner for the MET, the highest ranking officer from a minority background.

He agrees there is racism in the police because Racism, but puts this down to the fact that Racism still exists more broadly in the United Kingdom.

And he says the MET are not institutionally racist in terms of policies but in terms of not having equal outcomes, then yes they are.

In short he says that the higher Stop and Search rates of black people is all about society, not the police.

The Police use force more often on Black People…

This recent report (2021) by the HMICFRS found that black people are five times more likely to have force used on them during Stop and Search – such as the police drawing or using Tazers or using handcuffs during the search.

The report also found that around 20% of stop and searches are initiated by officer intuition, so they are ‘spontaneous’, which isn’t in line with national guidelines, and they found that most forces don’t regularly review body cam evidence to check stop and search procedures.

In a way I guess this report backs up what Basu says about the police not being institutionally racist in terms of policies, the problem is that too many police are ignoring formal guidelines and using their (racist?) intuition to stop and search.

The Use of Stop and Search for Drug Possession is also part of the problem

Stops for drug possession account for nearly 60% of stop and search, and drug possession is a relatively minor offence (compared to stops for suspected theft or holding a weapon).

The report suggests that if the police spent less time focussing on this it might help reduce the disproportionality by ethnicity in the stop and search figures!

NB – this raises the question of whether Black People just happen to use and/ or deal drugs more than White people – but the stop and search figures alone can’t tell us this and there is something of a paucity of self-report study data on drug use by ethnicity. I may return to this question in a blog later this month!

Find out More…

For a more detailed look at statistics on ethnicity and crime, please see this post here.

A very Sociological Analysis of the Royal Family…

I quite like Russel Brand, as a lot of his content is very sociological and critical and the video below in which he analyses aspects of the recent ‘Royal Rebrand’ of Will and Kate is fit to appear in a sociology text book IMO!

This content is, of course, most relevant to anyone studying the sociology of the media!

The Royal Rebrand

This is Russel Brand’s take on the recent release of Will and Kate’s 10 year wedding anniversary video – in which, according to uncritical mainstream news media, they share aspects of their private lives with the public.

The short video is basically them and their two children spending some time on the beach and in the countryside, and roasting marshmellows on an open fire under and oak tree.

Brand correctly points out that this isn’t in fact Will and Kate sharing aspects of their private lives, there is nothing private about this video. It is an engineered publicity stunt in which ‘every sweater choice and every marshmellow has been carefully agonised over and deliberately selected’ in order to convey a warm and comfortable family image.

He also points out how symbolic the oak tree is – English and long live, just like the royal family.

The Royal Paradox

Brand deepens his analysis by talking of the ‘royal paradox’ – the Royal Family have to walk this bizarre line between being rarified enough to be different from the rest of us and yet similar enough to us so that we can identify them – they need both for us to carry on agreeing to pay them out of the UK tax pot, but the two kind of undermine each other.

This Video = A Royal Rebrand now the Queen’s Days are Numbered

As Brand says, The Queen simply can’t go on forever, and Charles has been ‘tainted by Diana’ (and best not mention Andrew) and so the Royal Institution has to rely on Kate on Wills, especially since Harry and Megan have defected!

Hence this video – it’s an attempt to walk that line, symbolically, between ‘relevant to us’ – it’s a quick social media life update shared widely on social media of the ‘new’ royal family being ‘just like us’, and yet different and rarified, as symbolised by the oak tree – maybe this is an attempt to cast Kate and Wills as the ‘perfect modern-traditional’ family – stable, reliable, dependable, with roots stretching back into tradition.

Will this work?

I agree with Russel that the Royal Institution has no place in a modern (or postmodern) society, the more you think about it, the more it needs to fade away, but there are so many people with a vested interest in keeping it alive into the next generation and this is part of that rebrand it seems.

So far the media are buying it, and I see no evidence of the masses suddenly developing enough intelligence to see through this nonsense, so very possibly we’re about to enter into a new era of pro-royalism, bolstered via social media as desperate and uncertain people cast about for something stable and ‘real’ to identify with in our uncertain times?!?

Policing During the Pandemic… Right or Left Realist?

The UK Police Force have played a front-line role in enforcing government lockdown rules during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Newspapers have tended to focus on the more dramatic incidents of police handing out strict penalty notices to those breaching lockdown rules.

For example, this news item in the Sun from January 2021.

However, sociology students need to ask themselves how representative such cases are of the way the police more generally have conducted themselves during lockdown.

Recent research by HMICFRS on ‘policing the pandemic’ in the UK suggests that policing more generally has been more line with a community-engagement Left Realist approach to policing.

Based on a review of police interactions with the public during the Pandemic, the research found that most police forces in the UK successfully adopted government guidelines and spent most of their time engaging, explaining and encouraging people to obey lockdown rules rather than bluntly enforcing them with fixed penalty notices for people not wearing masks for example.

The ratio of ‘engage/ explain/ encourage’ to ‘enforce’ has been more than 10-1.

So while the police HAVE been enforcing lockdown rules with strict penalties in some cases, in more than 90% of interactions they have taken a much gentler approach, suggesting policing during the pandemic has been closer to a left-realist type of control rather than a right realist type of control.

How successful are early interventions in reducing violent crime?

Early interventions with young offenders (or with those deemed to be at risk of offending) are one of the preferred methods of controlling crime by Left Realists.

Early interventions involve taking a multi-agency approach to give extra support and guidance to young offenders (or prospective offenders) involving the police, social services, education, employment and health services working together to offer young people extra support and guidance to ‘steer’ them away from crime.

The UK government has been funding several early intervention programmes for several years now and this recent parliament briefing from 2019 summarises some of the evidence of how successful some of these programmes have been in reducing violent crime.

Before getting into the evidence on solutions the report defines what it means by violent crime (it includes carrying a knife) and then looks at the factors correlated with people turning to crime.

What Type of People are More Likely to Commit Violent Crime?

Here the report cites evidence relating to two major factors:

  • Individual Risk factors – such as exposure to Adverse Childhood Experience (ACEs) for example domestic abuse, exclusion from school and poor mental health
  • Environmental Risk Factors such as coming from an area of social deprivation and have negative experiences with the police through stop and search, the later of which is especially correlated with being an ethnic minority.

Early Interventions to Prevent Crime

The report distinguishes between individual and environmental interventions. The later are focused on geographical areas

Individual Interventions to Prevent Crime

There are many one to one support services available to young people from a huge range of government and charitable institutions offering the following types of support:

  • Mentoring – in which a trustworthy adult guides a young person through the early stages of their life. However evidence of the effectiveness of mentoring to reduce crime is limited. One study of 350 programmes across England found a huge variety in the support structures, and while this can be successful if mentors are well trained in it for the long-term, it can also have negative effects on the mental health of both mentor and mentee.
  • Specialist Children’s Services – one example is where child support agencies find extra financial support for young people who have been victims of domestic abuse. One study found that this reduced offending rates from 25% to 7%.
  • The Troubled Families Programme – involved assigning a support worker to families whose children were statistically at risk from offending, with the aim of helping children make the most of local community and employment opportunities. The first phase ran with 120 000 families from 2012 to 2105 but an individual evaluation in 2016 found no evidence of this meeting its aims. As a result the second phase ramped up to 400 000 families, and I’ll blog later about how effective this was!
  • Mental Health Support – One interesting approach mentioned here is ‘Parent Infant Psychotherapy – helping parents with mental health issues develop a bond with their children can help reduce neglect and thus reduce crime later in life.

Environmental Interventions to Prevent Crime

  • Community interventions – Appropriate policing is mentioned here as one approach – such as increasing police visibility in high crime areas to reduce opportunities for crime.
  • School Based Interventions such as teaching children social, emotional and communication skills have shown a positive impact in reducing anti social behaviour and substance abuse, such as those offered by ‘Growing Against Violence’ which works in 600 London Schools. However, programmes involving fear tactics have proven less successful.
  • The public health approach -More than a decade ago the Scottish Crime Survey identified that more than 70% of crimes involved people being drunk, so the Scottish authorities developed measures to reduce alcohol consumption, and violent crime reduced every year between 2008 to 2018. This was a truly multi agency approach to reducing crime.

Relevance of this report to A-level sociology

This is a terrific update for evaluating Left Realist approaches to crime. The report seems to be balanced and notes mixed results in many of the interventions, though does seem to be generally positive about the positive impact these early interventions have had in reducing crime.

However from a methods point of view it is difficult to know whether crime would have reduced anyway, even without these interventions, and that is one of the main problems with long term interventions – it is difficult to isolate the independent effect they may have had on reducing crime!

Only 18% of Senior Civil Servants are from ‘Working Class’ Backgrounds

A recent study from the Social Mobility Commission found that only 18% Senior Civil Servants are from lower social class backgrounds, what we might traditionally call ‘working class’ backgrounds’, and this is down from 19% in 1967!

The majority of senior civil servants are from privileged, higher social economic backgrounds, many having benefited from an independent (private school) education.

The proportion of employees from low social economic backgrounds varies a lot according to role, region and department.

For example, 40% of those those working in operational roles, delivering services are from lower SEBs compared to just 19% working in policy (policy jobs tend to be more prestigious).

And only 12% of people working in the Treasury are from low SEBs compared to 45% working in ‘work and pensions’.

And 22% of of London based civil servants come from low SEBs compared to 48% working in the North East.

The report is based on a survey of 300 00 civil servants so is very representative and 100 hour long interviews to explore why there is such a class divide in the senior ranks.

Why are the working classes underrepresented in the senior civil service?

The title of report points to an explanation – it is called ‘Navigating the labyrinth’ for a reason.

The authors put it down to a number of ‘hidden rules’ surrounding career progression in the civil service which create cumulative barriers that make it more difficult for those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds to make it into the Civil Service.

For example, there are some roles within the civil service that act as career accelerators but getting into these roles depends on who you know, such as having access to already senior staff and ministers, and those from lower SEBs lack this kind of in-house social capital.

There are also dominant behavioural codes within the senior civil service, which those from higher SEBs are more familiar with, they come naturally to them, one aspect of this is ‘studied neutrality’

The report describes Studied neutrality as having three key dimensions:

  1. a received pronunciation (RP) accent and style of speech
  2. emotionally detachment and an understated self-presentation
  3. prizing the display of in-depth knowledge for its own sake (and not directly related to work).

On the later point, some of the lower SEB interviewees in the study mentioned that there is a lot of talking in Latin, which many senior staff would break into sometimes during meetings, far from necessary from doing the job!

A final factor is that those from SEB backgrounds are more likely to specialise in a particular career path, which isn’t necessary for career progression.

Does the class divide in the senior civil service matter?

According to those in the senior service, no it doesn’t, because they see themselves as ‘neutral advisors’.

However, from a more Marxist point of view clearly it does! Just from a social justice perspective we have here a classic example of cultural capital blocking those from lower social backgrounds progressing to more senior positions, and those with cultural capital (from higher economic backgrounds) having an advantage.

And, despite claims to neutrality it’s unlikely that those from privileged backgrounds are going to advise on policies which promote more social justice and greater social mobility as that would be undermining the advantage they and their children have with the status quo!

How has Covid Impacted the UK Illegal Drug Market?

There have been some minor changes in the supply and taking of drugs in the United Kingdom since the onset of the covid pandemic, but the changes maybe aren’t as signficant as you’d think.

At least not according to a recent survey of UK drug users carried out in late 2020 by release.org.uk

Drug Use Increased slightly during the Pandemic

43% of users reported increasing their use of drugs, while 21% reduced and 36% kept their usage about the same.

The types of drug used also changed – with Cannabis use increasing and MDMA (the party drug) decreasing, mainly because of lack of opportunity to take it, with clubs being closed.

Drugs were slightly more difficult to find during the Pandemic

Around a third of drug users reported drugs being more difficult to get hold of a seller and having to source a different seller than usual, but overall only 25% reported it as being more difficult to find the drug they wanted, and only around 5% couldn’t find what they wanted or had to buy an alternative….

Unsurprisingly it became gradually more difficult to source drugs as the lockdown came into force and then eased.

Use of the ‘Darknet’ became slightly more popular

Use of the darknet increased by 13% and a full 30% of users would now consider using the darknet (buying drugs online) to purchase if the need to.

Drug dealers practiced social distancing

And many others took further precautions, well they are business people!

Relevance to A-level sociology/ analysis

Overall I’d say that this research shows us just how resilient the illegal drugs market has been during the pandemic.

Despite the UK borders being much more tightly controlled and huge restrictions on the movement of people with national lockdowns the drug supplies were largely unaffected, for the most part managing to keep up with the increased demand from nearly half of the UK drug taking population.

It’s also a nice reminder that UK drug suppliers are running a business, and they clearly take that business very seriously, showing the ability to adapt under extremely adverse conditions.

And they may be trading in illegal goods, but quite a few of them seemed to stick with the government suggested guidelines to stop the spread of the pandemic. I guess that was in their self-interest, it wouldn’t be good for business to infect your customers I guess!

This should be a useful update to both postmodern and global crimes as part of the Crime and Deviance module for A -level sociology,

An Interactionist Perspective on Drug Regulation

This video with Professor David Nutt on the bizarre way in which drugs are (miss) classified and (miss) regulated in the UK seems to be coming from an Interactionist point of view:

In the video Professor Nutt discusses how authorities inappropriately label/ categories certain drugs as harmful when really they are not and then harsher than appropriate penalties follow as a result.

Firstly he reminds us that categorisation (labelling) by authorities is fundamental to the way we understand and manage drugs – for a start there are two types – drugs for medical use (legal) and then illegal drugs.

Illegal drugs are controlled and categorised by the ‘misuse of drugs act’, which Nutt describes as being made up by a group of people based on what they thought.

The act classifies drugs into categories A, B or C. Less harmful drugs are in category C while more harmful drugs are in category A.

  • Class A includes drugs such as heroine and ecstasy
  • Class B includes cannabis
  • Class C includes Steroids, for example,

Over the last 20 years politicians have got more involved in categorising drugs based on their desire to be seen as being tough on drugs and thus tough on crime, and Professor Nut believes certain drugs have been mis-categoriesed.

For example, the medical evidence suggests that Ectasy is not a particularly risky drug, but government officials have put it in category A, along with the highly addictive and really harmful heroine and cocaine.

As a result, people caught with Ecstasy receive harsher penalties than they should based on the relative harm the drug does, just because of the whim of government.

In fact they often face harsher penalties just based on the categorisation – because Judges tend to be more lenient handing out punishments to Heroine users precisely because the later is more addictive while Ectasy is not.

So we have a situation where people are being punished for using recreational drugs with little harmful consequence associated with the drug itself.

A more systematic classification system

Nutt has worked with medical experts to produce a new classification system for drugs based on nine categories of harm, outlining several different harms which drugs do, both to the individual and society.

There is only data for some of these measurements, but for the data that exists Alcohol comes out on top.

Alcohol is the most common reason for deaths in men under 50, for example.

If you look at the individual only, Crack Cocaine and Crystal Meth come out on top, but because alcohol is so widely used once we factor in social harms it comes out as the most harmful

Why isn’t Alcohol regulated by the misuse of drugs act?

The fact that alcohol is not harmed is a huge anomaly – and the reasons it is not controlled is political and economic – the drinks industry makes a fortune and so does the government through taxes.

Relevance to A-level Sociology

This should be a useful addition for any student studying the Crime and Deviance module.

A-level Sociology Teaching Resources (Crime and Deviance)

I’ve just released the first of four packages of teaching resources for Crime and Deviance as part of my sociology teaching resources subscription package, available for only £9.99 a month!

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This month’s (May 2021) teaching resource bundle contains work books and Power Points covering eight lessons on Crime and Deviance – Intro to Crime, Functionalism and Consensus Theories and Marxism and Crime

Resources in the May 2021 bundle include

  1. Intro to Crime
  2. Intro to Crime Statistics
  3. Introducing perspectives on Crime and Deviance using the London Riots as an example
  4. Consensus Theories 1 – Functionalism, Bonds of Attachment and Strain Theory
  5. Consensus Theories 2 – Subcultural and Underclass Theory
  6. Marxism and Crime 1 – Crimogenic Capitalism and Corporate Crime
  7. Marxism and Crime 2 – Selective Law Enforcement and the ‘real’ functions of punishment
  8. Marxism and Crime 3  – Marxism and Crime Letter writing research task

The lessons are typically planned to last for one hour and 15 minutes, although some are longer. The Consensus Theories for example are longer lessons. 

The materials contain a good deal of material applying Crime and Deviance to Coronavirus and Lockdown.

The next three months resources will also focus on Crime and Deviance and work through the rest of the specification.

Resources in the bundle include:

  • Work books
  • Power points
  • Also contained in this month’s (May 2021) teaching bundle is a students Scheme of Work and some revision/ review material.

Fully modifiable resources

Every teacher likes to make resources their own by adding some things in and cutting other things out – and you can do this with both the work pack and the PowerPoints because I’m selling them in Word and PPT, rather than as PDFs, so you can modify them!

NB – I have had to remove most the pictures I use personally, for copyright reasons, but I’m sure you can find your own to fit in. It’s obvious where I’ve taken them out!

More resources to come…

I’m making resources available every month as part of this teacher resource subscription package. The schedule of release of resources is as below: