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Classic Sociology Texts: Frances Heidensohn "Women & Crime" (1985)

GCSE, A-Level

Last updated 29 Oct 2020

Feminist Frances Heidensohn outlined an argument for why women are less likely to commit crime than men, in her classic book from the 1980s. #soccd

Feminist Theories of Crime and Deviance - Heidensohn

Statistics show that men are much more likely to commit crimes than women. There have been various studies as to why this might be the case. Heidensohn seeks to explain it in terms of the way girls and women are controlled by men, leaving them with fewer opportunities to commit crime. This is known as control theory.

According to Heidensohn, girls are controlled by fathers and male siblings. They have to be home earlier than their brothers, and have less time when they are unsupervised. While boys were out playing together out of the home, girls had a "bedroom culture" in the home. She also said that there was more informal control of girls than boys in society more generally. (To be "respectable" girls had less freedom than boys).

Heidensohn argued that this control, both by family members and social expectations, continues for women in adulthood. They go from being controlled by fathers to being controlled by husbands. While working men would socialise with their fellow workers at pubs or sport, working women would return home to carry out homework and childcare. As such, Heidensohn suggests that it is patriarchy - the male-dominated society - which accounts for women committing fewer crimes than men.

Some suggest that this is an outdated picture. Are girls and women still more controlled than boys and men? Freda Adler suggests that women today have much more freedom (and suggests that is why female crime is now increasing.) Functionalists would suggest that men and women perform different gender roles in the family in order for society to function properly, rather than society being patriarchal and male-dominated.

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