FEMALE CRIMINALITY: FACTORS AFFECTING THE AGE OF FIRST ARREST
Danice Ann Duran
B.S., Colorado State University, 2003
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver/Health Sciences Center
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
This thesis for the Master of Arts
Danice Ann Duran
has been approved
Duran, Danice, A., Master of Arts (Sociology)
FEMALE CRIMINALITY: FACTORS AFFECTING THE AGE OF FIRST ARREST
Thesis directed by Dr. Candan Duran-Aydintug
To gain a better understanding of female criminality the following study takes on
the challenge of showing support for the research and analysis of factors that are not only
linked to female criminality in general, but more specifically to age of first of arrest of the
female criminals. The sample consisted of 3,742 female participants chosen from data
collected for The Survey of Inmates in State and Federal Correctional Facilities (1997).
From past research collected and reviewed and from analysis completed on the data
sample, it is clear that all but one of the factors mentioned in the hypotheses supported the
idea that age of first arrest among these women was affected by different variables
mentioned in this study, and all of this is supportive of the topic of study with the exception
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I recommend its
TABLE OF CONTENTS
2. LITERATURE REVIEW........................................4
3. THEORETICAL BACKGROUND......................-...........10
Purpose of the study and hypotheses................ 11
4. DATA AND METHODS........................................13
5. RESULTS ............................................ 16
6. CONCLUSION............................................. 22
The presence of females in prison is a growing trend that shows an increase in
female involvement in criminal activities. Even though most of the crimes committed in the
United States are committed by males and they make up the majority of the prison
population, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) reports that In 1998 there were an
estimated 951, 9000 women under the care, custody, or control of adult criminal justice
authorities (BJS, 2000, p. 6). What this means is that the number of female offenders is
increasing everyday, and according to the mathematical statistics listed on the Bureau of
Justice Statistics (2000) 1 out of every 109 adult women in the United States-nearly 1 % of
adult women-having some kind of correctional status on any given day (BJS, 2000, p. 6).
In 1998 women offenders made up about 16% of the correctional population, and they
have also had a 48% increase in the number of female offenders in comparison to a 27%
increase in male offenders (BJS, 2000). White women make up more than half of the
probation population while more than half of the state and federal corrections population
consists of minorities.. The majority of the women who are on probation or in state and
federal facilities are around the age of 25 or younger (the younger ages applying more to
the women on probation) and 25% percent of those in the federal and state systems are a
minimum age of 45. The majority of female offenders serving sentences, in comparison to
the general population of women, is not married and never has been.
This increase in female criminality poses an interesting problem for our whole
criminal justice system, as law enforcement agencies are more largely focused on how to
handle, arrest, convict, sentence, and rehabilitate male criminals. Another challenge for
social scientists and scholars interested in the study of the criminal justice system, is trying
to research and analyze different factors and patterns involved in this phenomenon. This
is problematic to complete when encountering the all too popular problem of lack of vast
amounts of research and literature on this topic.
A major goal of this study is to contribute more literature into the small, already
existent amount of research, and to take a closer look at some possible, major underlying
factors and the effects they might have on female offenders in the United States. This will
be done by using a sociological standpoint in the investigation and use of several major
theories and ideas, which are important in gaining a better understanding of the female
offender and the causes of an increase in this specific population of women.
An important aspect of female criminality that is necessary to mention when trying
to gain a better understanding of this current trend is the socialization process and how this
relates to females. Gender roles is one aspect that the available literature mentions as
being a socially constructed difference between genders that is in addition to the biological
differences. It basically states that the role of the woman is learned and determined by her
social environment It is evident that the ideology of gender roles has; through the
concurrent socialization process, been implanted in many social institutions such as the
family, religion, education, occupation and has been made personal by individuals. The
socialization process is what really defined the differences in the past between males and
females and the crimes they committed. Today, it is better to look at what changes to the
socialization process have happened that have led to a smaller gap between male and
Our culture is notorious for holding a reverence for masculinity, so by looking at the
link between masculinity and crime, we can see in a more specific way how the gender role
socialization of males can lead to negative effects in the way they behave. In order to
better understand female criminality it is pertinent that we also take a look at male
criminality. The literature by Michael Kimmel (2000) provides a good suggestion for the
process of young males who are raised in such a way as to avoid being labeled with the
stigma of being weak or feminine. They are socialized to show their masculinity by being
tough, even if that means portraying such characteristics through the use of violence and
dominance (Kimmel, 2000). This follows the idea of hegemonic masculinity which basically
categorizes males into roles that include being strong, assertive, aggressive, and without
emotion, and all of this is ingrained in the young males to assist them in achieving the goal
of being considered a true man. The perfect woman is shown, through our society, to
be more loving and kind, willing to show lots of emotion, to be more submissive and quiet
and inferior to the males. Because our society followed these old fashioned ideals and
aspects of socialization, we might have been the driving force behind creating such a large
gap in female and male criminalization, but these past gender roles are being phased out
and replaced with more modem ideals that have led to a smaller gender gap between men
and women and a crossing of the socially constructed gender boundaries by both sexes,
leading to a decrease in the gender gap in criminal offenders and in increase in female
The vast amount of research on male offenders is innumerable compared to that of
female offenders. This creates a challenge for researchers interested in this topic by
affecting their ability to find relevant literature and to make connections between past
studies and their current studies. The lack of research in this area also creates a challenge
for the researchers of current studies, by making it harder to make connections between
past research and data and adding to them with current knowledge, studies, and data
obtained on female offenders, specifically including research on different factors that may
help to explain female deviance and the offenses committed by women. The purpose of
this review is to focus on behavioral, social and demographic factors and how different
aspects of these factors affect female offenders and women in prison Research obtained
for this study will be broken down into three major sections to help explain the findings of
past research and the impact that various factors have had on the female offenders and
the offenses they commit.
On average, women are arrested more for drug related offenses than male
inmates and they tend to be under the influence of drugs/alcohol more times than not when
compared to their male counterparts (M.ullings, Hartley, & Marquart, 2004, Brewer-Smyth,
2004, Brewer-Smyth, Burgess, & Shults, 2004, Small, 2000, Femandez-Montalvo,
Echeburua, & Amor, 2005). A study by Mullins, Hartley, & Marquart (2004) showed a vast
majority of the female prisoners in their study did have a childhood which included their
parents having dependence issues, and increased rates of abuse and neglect, and these
women had also become victims to dependence issues and offenses involving those same
Another issue mentioned m past literature is physical/sexual abuse of inmates
during childhood (Mullings, Hartley, & Marquart, 2004, Mullings, Marquart & Hartley, 2003,
Brewer-Smyth, Burgess, & Shults, 2004, Brewer-Smyth, 2004, Lindsay, Smith, Quinn,
Anderson, Smith, Allan & Law, 2004). Of the research obtained on childhood
physical/sexual abuse, mistreatment and neglect, the majority consistently support the
argument that these childhood abuses have been found in large numbers of female
inmates (Mullings, Hartley, & Marquart, 2004, Brewer-Smyth, 2004, Kubiak, Hanna, &
Balton, 2005, Brewer-Smyth, Burgess, Shults, 2004, Mullings, Marquart, Hartley, 2003).
The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that According to the National Institute of Justice
over 40% of female inmates report a history of physical or sexual abuse prior to
incarceration (BJS, 1991). A link has also been found in past research between childhood
victimization and alcohol abuse problems later in life (Mullings, Hartley, & Marquart, 2004,
Brewer-Smyth, 2004. From 1984 to 2004, the number of women inmates has increased by
seven times the amount reported in 1980 (Mullings, Hartley, & Marquart, 2004).
Numerically this means that the number of female inmates jumped from 12,300 to 82,800,
leading to an increase of 573% (Mullings, Hartley, & Marquart, 2004). Research from 1997
has also revealed that during that time period more than half of both state and federal
female inmates were under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol at the time they had
committed their last offense (Mullings, Hartley, & Marquart, 2004). In comparison to the
control group of female offenders, these women who had reported abuse in their past
were, on average arrested for drug/alcohol related crimes at an adult age. Research in this
area has also pointed out that the lasting effects of childhood sexual abuse has led to adult
problems later in life that are consistent with PTSD, depression, sexual dysfunction and
anxiety attacks (Mullings, Marquart, & Hartley, 2003, p.442). This might help to support
the idea of female substance abusers self-medicating to smother their abuse scars from
their past (Mullings, Marquart, & Hartley, 2003). Past research has also shown that
substance abuse and victimization/sexual abuse of the offender has had an impact on their
behavior patterns (Mullings, Hartley, & Marquart, 2004, Brewer-Smyth, 2004, Kubiak,
Hanna, & Balton, 2005, Brewer_Smyth, Burgess, Shults, 2004, Mullings, Marquart, Hartley,
2003) and increased the probability of those women committing drug related offenses and
being alcohol/substance dependent (Mullings, Hartley, & Marquart, 2004). A link has been
shown through research that women who were victims of sexual abuse as children and
who were convicted offenders (mostly of drug related offenses, but also some violent
crimes) were more likely to have dependency issues and they tended to have more
problems with sexual dysfunction and entered into more risky sexual behaviors (Mullings,
Marquart, & Hartley, 2003).
A study by Brewer-Smyth, Burgess, & Shults (2004), & Crawford (2000) provides
research on physical and sexual abuse and how these factors correlate to the behavior of
female prisoners. This study is an interesting addition to the current review in that it brings
more to the table than the mental and emotional aspects and affects of abuse, it brings the
physical and neurological aspects of abuse on female offenders as well. These
researchers basically pose the idea of the stress hormone cortisol, increasing as a result of
abuse, and increased levels of this hormone leading to increased amounts of violent
behavior which was seen in a large amount of female offenders who were participants in
that particular study (Brewer-Smyth, Burgess, & Shults, 2004)
A similar study by Brewer-Smyth (2004) also explores the correlation between
past physicai/sexual abuse and the neurobiological effects as a result of the abuse and if
this has any effects on the criminal behaviors of female offenders. The main purpose of
that study (Brewer-Smyth, 2004) was to try to figure out ways to increase crime prevention
and to make rehabilitation of female offenders more efficient.
The article Women in Prison: A Comparative Assessment by Heitfield, & Simon
(Winter, p. 53-75) includes support for the hypothesis that in countries where women have
greater social, educational, and economic advancements, women will also comprise the
larger percentages of the total phson population" (Heitfield & Simon, p. 53). The majority
of the literature obtained mentions that most of the female population comes from lower
SES and they have little or no education and they are single mothers with substance abuse
problems. What seems to be left out of the literature is any mention of the different crimes
committed by those outside of the typical profile used in that particular study.
Another article I found (Myers, 1987) shows a research link between discrimination
of offenders and the sentencing process and the participants economic inequalities. In her
paper, Myers (1987) defines inequality as including the community where the offender is
sentenced and the inequality implied by various social attributes of the offender (Myers,
1987, p. 760). When summing up this literature I found that there is a link between
inequality and punishment sentencing based on these participants in the Myers (1987)
study. Harsher punishments were seen for participants who were considered to be more
dangerous and who had more social disadvantages. (Myers, 1987, French, 1978) These
results emphasize giving more attention to the economic context within which sentencing
occurs (Myers, 1987, p.746). The main purpose from this study is the necessity of looking
at the community where the sentencing occurs as well as individual attributes of the
offender (Myers, 1987).
Race is another popular variable I found in a lot of the research that I obtained for
this review. I decided to include it because of how popular it was in a lot of the research in
this area and I felt it was important to add and discuss it as a factor in my paper. In the
study by Phillips & Votey, (1984), they mention statistics for white and black females and
the crimes they have committed in comparison to these womens income levels, available
labor market work hours, and their household status (Phillips, & Votey, 1984). 40.5% of
black families have the mother as the head of the household as well as the main income
provider in comparison to 11.6% of white families. They also look at comparisons between
white and black women, the incentives to commit crime and the variables leading to the
different incentives and crimes. The main offenses they looked at were burglary and
larceny, two of the more popular personal crimes (Phillips, & Votey, 1984, French, 1978).
Their goal was to see which group committed each crime and what their incentives were,
including poverty, single parenthood, government aid, available work and competitive
wages. Although this study didnt have strong support for their null hypotheses, the study
included some important variables in looking at the role of economics and female
Researchers Chilton & Oatesman (1987) did an analysis to look at how gender,
race and crime are related to urban arrest trends from 1960-1980 and found that for black
females, a very important factor in analyzing the possible explanation for their higher rate
of offense included their racial group having a higher proportion of female offenders within
the crime prone age group of 15-29 year olds" (Chilton & Datesman, 1987, p. 164). These
factors were applicable in this particular study which analyzed the black female offenders
in comparison to the white females in the study, Some other prominent variables in their
study includd poverty, masculinization, differential association and socialization, and single
parent families. All of which I have also found as factors in previous research. Their study
showed in a detailed way, how each of these variables can affect crime trends, but this
pertained largely toward African American women, more than any other race because as
the researchers note, their sample consisted of a much larger number of African American
women as participants in comparison to white women or any other minority.
The article Crime in the United States. 1963-1998: An update, by (Small, 2000)
includes four possible theories used in discussion about gaining better insight into the mind
of the female offender. These four main theories include the masculinity theory the
opportunity theory, the economic marginalization theory and the chivalry theory (Small,
2000, p. 76). The basic idea of the masculinity theory is that increases in female criminality
can possibly be linked to changes in subjective attitudes brought about by the women's
movement, changing social roles of women, the masculinization of female behavior, and
changes in patterns of female offending (Small, 2000, p. 75). This theory basically
attributes the increase in female offending to the idea that with more liberation, women
start to take on traditionally male roles and characteristics such as aggression and
stubbornness (Small, 2000). Women then become greedier and use crime as a way to
gain even more wealth and success (Small, 2000).
Opportunity theory leaves morals out of the discussion, and instead this theory is
more focused on womens increased opportunities, skills, and inclusion in social networks
that influence female criminality" (Small, 2000, p. 76). To summarize this theory, would be
to say that as the number of educated women and women entering the work force
increases the more work-related, fraudulent, skilled crimes are being committed because
they are crimes of opportunity (Small, 2000).
The economic marginalization theory also known as the gender inequality theory
basically sums up female criminality as being attributed to low work pay, dislike for current
employment, and insecurity toward their own economic security for their families. This
theory places the blame on factors such as low wages, un-employment and insufficient
welfare funds and states that these are the factors that have led women within society to
become marginalized and therefore leaving them with no other choice than to commit
crimes out of economic need (Smart, 1977, Steffensmeier, & Allan, 1996).
The last popular theory, chivalry, defends the idea that women are treated
differently and more leniently than men by the criminal justice system. This theory is
consistent with the argument that the rate of female offending hasnt drastically changed,
but the rate of more punishable, equal treatment of their crimes in comparison to their male
counterparts has actually increased.
PURPOSE OF THE STUDY AND HYPOTHESES
The purpose of this study is to focus on the factors that literature, affect female
criminality, especially the age at which a female is arrested for the first time. Hypotheses
were formulated based on the variables that were studied in the literature.
H1: White females will be older at the time of first arrest than others.
H2: Females whose parents (or guardians) have served time in jail or prison will be
younger at the time of the first arrest than females whose parents (or guardians did not
serve time in jail or prison.
H3: Females whose parents (or guardians) abused drugs and alcohol will be younger at
the time of first arrest than females whose parents (or guardians) did not abuse drugs or
H4: Females who did not live with both parents while growing up will be younger at the
time of first arrest than females who did live with both parents while growing up.
H5: Females who have ever been physically abused women will be younger at the time of
H6: Females who have ever been sexually abused women will be younger at time of first
H7: Respondents whose parents or guardians received welfare while growing up will be
younger at the time of first arrest.
H8: Respondents whose friends engaged in drug related illegal behavior (while growing
up) will be younger at the time of the first arrest.
H9: Respondents who used drugs before the age of 18, will be younger at the time of
DATA AND METHODS
In this study, data from The Survey of Inmates in State and Federal Correctional
Facilities (SISFCF, 1997) was used. This secondary data set combines two distinct
surveys, The 1997 Survey of Inmates in State Correctional Facilities (SISCF) and the 1997
Survey of Inmates in Federal Correctional Facilities (SIFCF). SISSCF was conducted for
the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) by the Bureau of the Census. SIFCF was also
conducted for the BJS and the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) by the Bureau of the
Census. These surveys provide nationally representative data on State prison inmates
and sentenced Federal inmates held in federally owned and operated facilities. Inmates in
both Sate and Federal prisons provided information, through personal interviews from June
to October 1997, about their current offense and sentence, criminal history, family
background and personal characteristics, prior drug and alcohol use and treatment
programs, gun possession and use, and prison activities, programs, and services. The
surveys used the individual as the unit of analysis and applied a multi-stage cluster,
stratified random, face to face survey design.
In each interview, a computer-assisted personal interviewing (CAPI) was used and
each lasted approximately one hour. The researchers used the same questionnaire in
both studies for which a reliability coefficient was not reported. Each participant was
informed both verbally and in writing that this was a voluntary procedure and that he/she
could decide not to participate in the study at any time. Moreover, the participants were
told that all the information collected was to be kept in confidence. At the end, a total of
14,285 interviews were completed for the State survey and 4,041 for the Federal survey.
For the purposes of my study, from a total of 18,326,1 chose only the female
inmates (N=3,796) who were currently sentenced to serve time (N=3,742).
Age is a continuous variable; Race is coded 1=White, 2=Black or African
American, 3=Asian or Pacific Islander, 4=Aboriginal North American, 5=Other; Racel is a
variable created for this study; this is a dichotomous variable where 1=White and 0=AII
Others. Marstat (indicating marital status) Marital Status is coded 1=Married, 2=Widowed,
3=Divorced, 4=Separated, 5=Never Married. Education ranges from 0=Never attended
school to 18=two or more years of college where each increment represents 1 completed
grade. Agearrest is a continuous variable indicating how old the respondent was when
she was arrested for a crime for the first time.
Parabuse is a dichotomous variable; 1=While growing up respondents parents (or
guardians) abused alcohol and drugs and 2=they did not. Jaittime is also a dichotomous
variable; 1=respondents parents or guardians served prison time and 2=they did not. A
categorical variable Livewith indicates who the respondent lived with growing up; in this
case, 1=both parent 2=mother, 3=father, 4=grandparents, 5=other relatives, 6=friends,
7=fbster homes, 8=agency or institution, 9=other. In this study, a dichotomous variable,
Parents, was created with both parents=0, and all other categories =1. Socioeconomic
status (SES) was measured with a single indicator, income. The respondents were asked
which category best described their personal income during the month before their arrest.
The response categories were: 0=no income, 1=1-199, 2=200-399..., all the way up to
12=7,500 or more. Housing indicates whether the respondent lived in public housing
while growing up and Welfare indicates whether respondents' parents or guardians ever
received welfare. For both of these variables the response categories were 1=yes and
2=no. Drugs, is a dichotomous variable where 1=respondent started using drugs before
the age 18. Peer deviant behavior was measured with Peer. The respondents were
asked, while growing up, whether their triends they hung out with engaged in activities like
using drugs; 1=yes and 2=no.
Descriptives of the Sample:
The mean age of the respondents was 35.11, with 15 being minimum and 75 being
maximum ages. Nearly 48% of the respondents were White, 46% were African American,
and the rest was in Asian American, Native American, and Other categories. When it
comes to marital status, 20.2% of the respondents were married, 20.7% was divorced,
5.7% was widowed, 10.1 was separated, 43.1% reported never been married. More than
half of the respondents reported a monthly income of less than $800.
Highest Grade of School Attended:
The mean grade of school attended was 11.09, with 0 being the minimum and 18
being the maximum grades. Nearly 2% only attended elementary school, almost 11 %
completed middle school, about 67% completed high school and nearly 20% completed
one or more years of higher education.
24% of the respondents reported their current offense as being a violent offense
which for this sample includes the broad categories of: murder, manslaughter, kidnapping,
rape, other sexual offenses, robbery, assault and other violent (offenses not specifically
. labeled). Almost 26% of the current offenses reported by the respondents were property
offenses which in this sample included: burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft, arson, fraud,
stolen property, and other property offenses (not specifically labeled). Nearly 38% of the
reported offenses were drug related offenses which included: drug possession, drug
trafficking and other drug offenses (not specifically labeled), and almost 11 % of the
reported offenses were public-order offenses and included: weapons, obstruction of justice
traffic violation, DWI, drunkenness or morals, violation of probation or parole, and other
public-order offenses (not clearly labeled). The last 1% of the offenses was listed as other
Hypotheses H1 through H9 were tested using t-tests as for each hypothesis mean
age differences (of the first arrest) of two groups were compared with each other.
Results of the t-tests:
t value significance le
H1 1.406 .160
H2 -9.552 0.000
H3 -6.448 0.000
H4 -8.889 0.000
H5 -4.694 0.000
H6 -5.723 0.000
H7 -9.873 0.000
H8 -13.620 0.000
H9 -5.76 0.000
Based on these results, H1 is rejected and H2 through H9 are all supported. Race
had no effect on age of first arrest however for those females who grew up in households
that didnt have both parents living in the same house did effect the age of first arrest for
this sample by showing a younger age of first arrest in comparison to the other females in
this study. This was also true for the females who had grown up receiving welfare
assistance as youth. Females whose parents or legal guardians had served any jail or
prison time were younger at the time of their first arrest than female participants whose
parents or guardians did not ever spend any time in jail or prison. Younger age of first
arrest was also seen for females whose parents had abused drugs and alcohol in
comparison to females whose parents didnt have substance abuse histories. A younger
age of first arrest was also seen for women you had been physically abused as well as
sexually abused, and also for females whose friends had engaged in drug related activities
while growing up and for respondents who had used drugs before the age of 18.
What this means for our society and for the criminal justice system, is that we need
to take a closer look at the youth of our society and how these different factors are putting
them at a higher risk for not only committing crime but also for being arrested for
committing crime at earlier ages. It is clear from the data on the highest grade of school
attended that *1^ grade was the mean grade completed by these respondents, making it
clear that most of them arent even graduating high school, let alone going to college. The
first issue we need to look at is keeping these kids in school and supporting them as they
graduate as well as providing assistance in getting them into applying for college. We also
need to look at the pattern of incarceration being passed from parent or guardian to child.
From our second hypothesis we can see that when the parents/guardians had
been arrested, that their children would also follow in this pattern, only they would be
arrested at earlier ages than other female criminals whose parents had no criminal record
time served. Knowing that this situation does pose a risk for youth we need to take into
consideration that these individuals are already more at risk than others, and that their
chances of committing crime are greater, and by this it is evident that intervention and
education needs to come at an earlier age, maybe even monitoring of the parents or
guardians who have served time in a correctional facility
The third hypothesis was also supported and means that individuals coming from a
home filled with substance abusing parents will put them at a higher risk for committing
crimes at earlier ages. This is a good argument for monitoring parents with such issues,
providing education, intervention and support for the youth at younger ages with the
assumption that they are high risk for becoming future offenders.
Living situations with broken families is also a big concern while looking at female
offenders, as those living in these settings did have earlier ages of first arrests. This was
hypothesis four that was supported through this study. It is a good area to assist in
providing counseling and therapy, education and support for those families in broken
homes, to help prevent the parents from separating and also to provide support and extra
help to the already broken families that children are bom into, a good example might be the
big brother/big sister programs, aimed at providing the kids of broken homes with a male or
female persona to learn good, safe, fun living from.
Those women who have ever been physically abused/sexually abused are also at
a greater risk for offending at a younger age than their counterparts, which is supported in
the fifth and sixth hypotheses. Providing therapy, support and aid to these women at first
notification of abuse is a good place to start reviewing possible treatments for this problem.
This isnt an easy task however, especially if the female is unresponsive and wont talk
about or mention any abuse problems she is experiencing at home. Schools provide
counselors to children to help assist in noticing, treating and stopping problems within the
youth, but is treatment for such a traumatizing experience good enough to really help
eliminate these youth from committing crimes? A lot of the problems begin when the girls
run away from home to escape the abuse only to end up on the streets without anywhere
to go, and no money and sometimes no job, which might help to explain why the largest
percentage of current offenses reported by the respondents was the drug related offenses,
these females leave one bad situation only to find themselves in other bad situations where
they become trapped in lives of crime. Only time and research can really tell, until then we
need to make sure this problem is put under the microscope at the earliest warning signs
detected in the youth.
From the seventh hypothesis we can see that for this sample, children growing up
in impoverished homes, living off of welfare, also showed earlier ages of first arrest than
their counterparts. This might mean that with the parents being unable to afford not
working and supporting their children at the same time, they might be out working longer
days to make money to support the household, putting children in situation of being home
alone or supervised by barely older siblings, leading to more opportunity to be out and
unsupervised and allowing for more opportunities to commit crime. A good idea that
comes to mind concerning this issue is more, affordable, if not free, government regulated
after school programs, aimed at helping to aid these parents in keeping their kids off the
From the eighth and ninth hypotheses being supported by the data, its clear that
when kids hang out with other kids who are doing drugs while they are growing up, will also
have younger ages of first arrests as well as respondents who have used drugs before the
age of 18. These two go hand-in-hand in showing that when kids are around other kids
who are making poor choices such as using drugs, they are more tempted to engage in
such behaviors themselves, as thats what growing up is all about; fitting in. If s also clear
that since these kids are growing up together the chances of them trying drugs at earlier
ages is higher, and this has been shown to lead to earlier ages of first arrest for these
respondents. This goes along with the drug related offenses being of the highest
percentage of current offenses reported, for many drugs are a first crime and become an
ongoing offense. We need to get these kids busy doing projects and other activities to
enrich their minds in different ways, and to keep them away from other kids who are bad
influences. Parents need to be more proactive concerning their childrens friends, and
letting their kids hang out with certain children in unsupervised conditions. Parents also
need to become more educated on the signs and symptoms of drug use, arming them with
the tools to spot drug problems early on, in the hope of putting an end to the problem
before it spirals out of control.
To conclude this study I would like to mention a couple of weaknesses, strengths
and ideas for future studies on this topic. To begin, I would like to mention that a major
weakness in the data and sample used for this study is that the data set was a secondary
data set. Of course, for purposes of this study, gender was biased, and the results cant be
concluded for the whole society because the data is so confined to the respondents in this
specific sample in this particular study. Another weakness is that the two main races of
individuals within this sample are white or black, and this limits our ability to apply these
same findings to all other races.
Some of the strengths of this study include all but one hypotheses being
supported, which showed that age of first arrest is greatly affected by many different
factors, varying from parents, to living conditions, to abuse experienced by the individual.
Although the women used in this sample were pooled from prisons, there was a vast
amount of very detailed and thorough questions, leaving little room for misunderstanding
by the individual participants while answering each of them.
Some future study ideas include comparing age of first arrest of female offenders
to that of male offenders, to look for differences in both the crimes and underlying factors.
Another idea would be to obtain more balanced racial groups, to get a better understanding
of how race does or doesnt play a factor in female criminality and age of first arrest. A
longitudinal study would also be interesting to complete, and intergenerational as well to
look for familial patterns among female offenders and their female relations.
Brewer-Smyth, Kathleen. 2004. Women Behind Bars: Could Neurobiological Correlates of
Past Physical and Sexual Abuse Contribute to Criminal Behavior? Health Care for
Women International 25:835-852.
Brewer-Smyth, Kathleen, Burgess, A.W., & Shults, J., 2004. Physical and Sexual Abuse,
Salivary Cortisol, and Neurologic Correlates of Violent Criminal Behavior in Female
Prison Inmates. BIOL Psychiatry 55:21-31.
Chilton, Roland, & Datesman S.K. 1987. Gender, Race, and Crime: An Analysis of Urban
Arrest Trends, 1960-1980. Gender and Society 1: 52-171.
Crawford, Charles. 2000. Gender, Race, and Habitual Offender Sentencing in Florida.
Criminology 38: 263-280.
Federal Bureau of Investigation. 1992. Crime in the United States-1991.
Washington, D.C., U.S. Department of Justice.
Federal Bureau of Investigation. 2000. Crime in the United States-1998.
Washington, D.C., U.S. Department of Justice.
Femandez-Montalvo, Javier, Echeburua, E., & Amor, P.J. 2005. Agressors Against
Women In Prison and in the Community: An Exploratory Study of a Differential
Profile. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology 49:
French, Laurence. 1978 The Incarcerated Black Female: The Case of Social Double
Jeopardy. Journal of Black Studies 8: 321-335.
Heitfield, Heather, & Simon, R.J. Women in Prison: A Comparative Assessment. Gender
Issues Winter: 53-75.
Kimmel, Michael, S. 2000. The Gendered Society. New York: Oxford University Press.
Kubiak, Sheryl Pimlott, Hanna, J., & Balton, M. 2005. I Came to Prison to Do My Time-
Not to Get Raped": Coping Within the Institutional Setting. Stress, Trauma, and
Crisis 8: 157-177.
Lindsay, W.R., Smith, A.H.W., Quinn, K Anderson, A., Smith, A., Allan, R., & Law, J.
2004. Women with Intellectual Disability Who Have Offended: Characteristics and
Outcome. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research 48: 580-590.
Mullings, Janet, L, Marquart, J.W., Hartley, D.J. 2003. Exploring the Effects of Childhood
Sexual Abuse and its Impact on HIV/AIDS Risk-Taking Behavior Among Women
Prisoners. The Prison Journal 83: 442-463.
Mullings, Janet, L., Hartley, D.J., Marquart, J.W. 2004. Exploring the Relationship
Between Alcohol Use, Childhood Maltreatment and Treatment Needs Among
Female Prisoners. Substance Use & Misuse 39: 277-305.
Myers, Martha A. 1987. Economic Inequality and Discrimination in Sentencing. Social
Forces 65: 746-766.
Phillips, Llad, & Votey, H.L., Jr. 1984. Black Women, Economic Disadvantage, and
Incentives to Crime. The American Economic Review 74:293-297.
Putkonen, Hanna, Komulainen, E.J., Virkkunen, M., Eronen, M., & Lonnqvist, J. 2003.
Risk of Repeat Offending Among Violent Female Offender With Psychotic and
. Personality Disorders. Am J Psychiatry 160: 947-951.
Small, Kevonne. 2000. Female Crime in the United States, 1963-1998: An update. Gender
Issues Summer. 75-90.
Smart, Carol. 1977. Criminological Theory: Its Ideology and Implications concerning
Women. The British Journal of Sociology 28: 89-100.
Steffensmeier, Darrell, Allan, E. 1996. Gender and Crime: Toward a Gendered Theory of
Female Offending. Annual Review of Sociology 22: 459-487.