Traditionally, crime was perceived as violation of the social order and criminals were viewed as outcasts unable to live in the society and inclined to deviant behavior. In the course of time, the negative view on crime has not change, though the traditional view on a criminal has started to changes since the late 20th century. In actuality, the stereotyped image of a criminal as a marginalized male is a bit out-of-date because a number of factors need to be taken into consideration, including the gender of a criminal. In this respect, it should be said that along with crime rates differences depending on then ethnic origin of criminals, today, it is necessary to take into consideration gender differences as well. If differences in crime rates among different ethnic groups could be determined by the traditional differences in socioeconomic position of different ethnic groups, which provoked higher crime rates among the poorest groups of people, then the difference in crime rates determined by the gender is a relatively new trend. In the past, criminals were predominantly male, while, in the modern society, the number of female criminals is growing steadily, to the extent that in the future they can reach the level of male crime rates. In such a situation, it is very important to find the causes of such a dramatic change leading to the appearance of the new female criminal since the understanding of causes will help to find the ways to possible prevention of the growth of crime rates among females.
On analyzing gender differences, which are of the utmost importance for understanding of the growth of crime rates among females, it is necessary to point out that differences are determined by several basic factors: biological, cognitive, and environmental. Obviously, biological factors define, to a significant extent, the difference in the behavior of male and females in their daily life and naturally biological difference cannot fail to affect the anti-social behavior of an individual and his or her deviant inclinations. In this respect, biological factors apparently make males more inclined to offenses and criminal activities than females. The reason is quite obvious, males are more predisposed to the aggressive behavior, they are bolder in taking risks and they are more inclined to violence than females. In fact, such inclinations contribute consistently to the criminal activities of males and they can be explained by purely biological factors. For instance, the high level of testosterone increases dramatically the aggressiveness of an individual. The level of testosterone is consistently higher in males than in females. As a result, the traditionally high crime rates among males could be perceived as a norm from a biological point of view, while the current growth of female crime rates is a challenge to criminologists, who attempt to explain crime from a biological point of view (Hayward, 2004, p.127). Though, it is possible to admit that the changes of the life style, the impact of nutrition and environment could produce impact on the human biology and, therefore, made females more inclined to criminal activities than they used to be in the past.
However, in this respect, cognitive and environmental factors seem to have consistently more significant impact on criminals regardless of the gender. If males are biologically more conditioned to the commitment of crime than females, then cognitive and environmental factors rather mirror the current trends in the life of the modern society than natural inclinations of males and females (Hayward, 2004, p.130). What is meant here is the fact that the cognitive factors directly depend on the existing cultural and social norms because people, in the course of their development, learn their surrounding world, acquire new experience and develop certain models of behavior on the basis of the existing social norms, traditions and standards (Braithwaite, 1995, p.766). This is where the problem arises leading to the growing crime rates among females.
In actuality, the modern society is characterized by the elimination of difference in the position of males and females.
The strife of females for equal rights compared to men had, along with a number of positive effects, quite a negative side effect, namely the growth of crime rates among females. To put it more precisely, the equality of female compared to males in the contemporary society leads to the formation of an individual’s identity which is quite different from the identity of past generations. Modern women are unwilling to play a secondary role and be treated as if they are inferior to men. However, often the progress of the feminist movement results not in the development of a particular, different behavior of women as equal to men, but, instead, it leads to the imitation of models of male behavior by females. As a result, women tend to be more aggressive, violent and delinquent than they used to be in the past. Such a trend leads to the closing the gap between male and female crime rates, though it occurs not due to the minimization of male crime rates, but because of the growth of female crime rates. In fact, women, in the course of the formation of their identities, can acquire violent and aggressive models of behavior which they perceive as a norm.
This trend is enhanced consistently by the environment of an individual. In actuality, the environment produces a similar affect on an individual, though responses to the impact of the environment can differ, depending on the gender of an individual. In this respect, it should be said that, traditionally, males were more likely to use more aggressive coping strategies, while females tended to avoidance of conflicts and possible problems. What is meant here is the fact that males when they encounter some problems, for instance, if they loss a job or when they have some problems at job, they are likely “to resist to the negative impact of the environment”ť (Barak, 1998, p.226). For instance, on losing a job, males can start committing crimes to earn for living and support their families, while females are less likely to such a reaction on the loss of a job.
On the other hand, the permanent pressure of the environment on females living in poverty-stricken neighborhoods increases dramatically the risk of the development of deviant models of behavior by females. Specialists (Brantingham and Brantingham, 1991, p.168) point out that often “females learn deviant models of behavior from their childhood”ť and, when in the adult life they face serious problems which put them beyond margins of the normal social life, they can adapt deviant models of behavior and start committing crimes as males do.
Obviously, negative environmental factors, changes in the culture and social life of the modern society affected the cognitive development of both males and females. As a result, the new type of criminals has emerged ”“ the new female criminal. The latter means that the new female criminal is consistently different from the traditional criminal which is perceived by the society as a male criminal, who is inclined to deviant behavior. Instead, the new female criminal is a female criminal who tends to behave in the similar way as males do (Bennet, 2005, p. 271). For instance, in the past females were not inclined to the commitment of violent crimes, instead, the new female criminals are characterized by the high aggressiveness and a strong trend to the violent behavior, which can involve the use of fire arms and other weapon. In fact, this is a new type of criminal which actually contributes to the fast growth of female crime rates.
Thus, in such a situation, it is possible to conclude that the gender difference in relation to crime tends to weaken, while in the future, differences between female and male crimes and crime rates can get eliminated. Anyway, today, the society witnesses the emergence of new female criminals, who adapt male models of criminal behavior. At the same time, it is necessary to understand that the emergence of a new female criminal and the growth of female crime rates are determined not by biological or natural factors, but by the environmental and social factors. The deterioration of socioeconomic position of people, regardless of their gender increases crime rates, while the elimination of inequality between males and females, contributes to the growth of crimes among females, especially those, whose social position is desperate.