A Tale of Two Criminals: A Psychological Exploration of Male vs. Female Criminals

The world of true crime reveals a stark contrast between male and female criminals. It’s not just about who commits more crimes, but a matter of how and why these crimes are carried out. Are men naturally more violent, or is society to blame? Why are women more likely than men to choose poison as a weapon of choice? This divergence goes beyond the surface, pointing to deep psychological differences.

That’s why CrimeDoor is honing in on the psychological differences between male and female criminals, connecting the dots with real-world cases, data analysis, and psychological theories.

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Gender and Crime: An Overview

When it comes to crime, gender plays a significant role in shaping the patterns and types of offenses committed. Men, who are often socialized to be more aggressive and dominant, are statistically more likely to commit violent crimes. It’s also important to take into account their biological differences as well. This is reflected in the profiles of many infamous male criminals, where a common thread of exerting power and control over their victims is evident.

On the other hand, females, traditionally nurtured to be caregivers, tend to lean towards crimes that require manipulation and deceit. This is not to say that women are incapable of violent crimes, but statistically, they are more likely to employ subtler methods. Crime history is replete with instances of female offenders using their nurturing facade to mask their deadly intentions.

However, these are broad trends and do not define every individual’s actions. Each criminal, regardless of their gender, has a unique psychological makeup and personal history that influences their criminal behavior. There is a complex interplay of psychological, societal, and personal factors that shape the actions of criminals. This overview serves as a stepping stone into the intriguing exploration of gender differences in crime.

Male Criminals: A Deeper Dive

Common Types of Crimes Committed by Males

Please note that these are general trends and do not represent the behavior of all men. Individual behavior can vary greatly.

Psychological Characteristics

Psychological studies suggest that certain traits are more prevalent in male criminals. Men with lower amygdala volumes were found to be more than three times more likely to be aggressive and violent and show psychopathic traits.  Developmental and life course criminology suggests that individual characteristics, such as impulsiveness and environmental factors like family, schooling, and neighborhood, can influence the propensity to commit crime.

Historical and Significant Cases

  • O.J. Simpson: In what’s still probably considered the most-watched criminal case ever, Pro Football Hall of Famer O.J. Simpson was acquitted of the brutal murder of his former wife, Nicole Brown, and her friend, Ronald Goldman, a waiter at a local restaurant. The case, which was televised, captivated the nation and brought issues of race and celebrity into the courtroom.
  •  Lindbergh Baby KidnappingIn 1932, the infant son of famed aviator Charles Lindbergh was found dead about two months after going missing from his family’s New Jersey home. The case, which was dubbed “The Crime of the Century,” led to the Federal Kidnapping Act, commonly called the “Lindbergh Law,” which made transporting a kidnapping victim across state lines a federal crime.
  • Beltway Snipers: Over the course of about three weeks during the fall of 2002, more than a dozen people had been mysteriously shot by an unknown sniper in the Washington, D.C. suburbs. The snipers, John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo, were eventually caught and convicted. The attacks created a climate of fear in the area, with people afraid to go outside or let their children play in parks.
  • Harold Shipman: Dr. Harold Shipman, nicknamed “Dr. Death” after his horrific killing spree came to light, was sentenced to life in prison after killing over 200 patients. One of history’s deadliest serial killers was a married family man who managed to squeeze in 218 credited murders (and as many as 250) while working as a popular British physician. He began his murderous spree in 1972, and it’s believed he killed at least 71 patients while working at his first practice and doubled that number at a second practice he joined after butting heads with colleagues who found him arrogant, brusque and overconfident.

Dr. Harold Shipman, known as “Dr. Death”, killed more than 200 of his patients. Image Source

These cases underscore the diverse types and severe nature of crimes committed by males, ranging from domestic violence and kidnapping to serial killings, reflecting the broad spectrum of male criminal behavior.

Social Impact and Repercussions

The social impact of male crime is significant. Men’s crimes often result in victims being overwhelmingly female. The ideology that men must be the provider, as opposed to a provider, persists for a multitude of reasons, whether it be power and control, fear of the unknown, or some other reason. This can lead to increased negative criminal behavior, including violence. Furthermore, the loss of a practical/economic point to their lives signifies society’s desire to jettison problematic populations and leaves these men outside of the institutions of social control.

Female Criminals: A Closer Look

Common Types of Crimes Committed by Females

When it comes to the types of crimes committed by females, several patterns emerge:

These patterns highlight the types of crimes most commonly committed by women. However, it’s important to note that these are general trends and not deterministic rules. The types of crimes committed by women can vary widely based on a range of factors, including individual circumstances, societal norms, and

Psychological Characteristics

Psychological characteristics of female criminals often reveal a history marked by trauma and abuse. For example, Aileen Wuornos, a well-known female criminal, experienced a distressing childhood. She was left by her mother and raised by her grandparents, with her father, a convicted child molester, taking his own life in prison. It’s common to find significant warning signs during the elementary school years of these individuals, such as suspensions or expulsions, aggressive behavior towards peers, and early substance use. Female criminals often exhibit more traditionally ‘masculine’ traits, both biologically and psychologically. In social psychological terms, female criminal behavior is a concomitant of role reversal.

Historical and Significant Cases

Karla Homolka is a Canadian serial killer responsible for the death of three minors. Image Source

These cases illustrate the complexity of female criminal behavior and the variety of crimes committed by women. They highlight some common patterns, such as crimes committed in partnership and crimes against children, but also show that women can and do participate in a wide range of criminal activities. It’s important to remember that these are high-profile cases and do not represent the typical patterns of female criminal behavior. Most women who engage in criminal activity do not commit violent crimes or become serial killers. Factors such as social context, personal circumstances, and individual choices all shape criminal behavior.

Comparing Male and Female Criminal Behavior

When comparing male and female criminal behavior, several key differences emerge.

  • Type of CrimeMen are more likely to commit violent crimes, such as murder and assault, while women often commit non-violent crimes, such as theft and fraud.
  • Rate of Crime: Men commit crimes at a significantly higher rate than women.  In fact, men account for approximately 80% of all crime in the United States.
  • Psychological Factors: Men and women also differ in the psychological factors that contribute to their criminal behavior. Men are often driven by aggression and the desire for power, while women may be influenced by factors such as poverty, drug addiction, and mental health issues.
  • Social Impact: The social impact of male and female crime also differs. Male crime, particularly violent crime, often results in significant harm to victims and communities. Female crime, on the other hand, often has a more indirect impact, such as financial loss from theft or fraud.
  • Recidivism RatesResearch has consistently shown that males tend to have higher recidivism rates compared to females. This difference can be attributed to various factors, including differences in criminal behavior, socialization, and psychological characteristics.
  • Criminal Justice System: Men and women are also treated differently by the criminal justice system. Men are more likely to be arrested, charged, and incarcerated for their crimes, while women are more likely to receive probation or other non-custodial sentences.

These differences highlight the complex interplay of gender, psychology, and social factors in shaping criminal behavior. Understanding these differences can help inform strategies for crime prevention and rehabilitation.

Societal Factors and Their Influence

Undeniably, societal factors play a significant role in shaping behaviors, including criminality. The values, norms, and structures of a society can deeply influence, and sometimes may determine, the behaviors of individuals. So, what kind of societal factors have an impact on gender-based criminal behaviors?

  • Economic Inequality: It’s crucial to comprehend that economic factors can significantly shape criminal behavior. Statistics indicate that the level of economic hardship influences the likelihood of indulging in criminal behavior. It’s often observed that men in financial distress may resort to violent crimes or robberies, whereas women may gravitate towards prostitution or theft.
  • Social Roles and Expectations: The roles prescribed by society to the two sexes can profoundly shape criminal behaviors. Males, being traditionally perceived as the ‘provider,’ may partake in crimes such as smuggling or robbery to meet their perceived responsibilities. Conversely, females—often restrained by their prescribed roles—may commit surreptitious crimes, such as stealing or embezzlement. An interesting item of note: women defendants who conform to traditional gender role stereotypes are likely to be treated more leniently than men who are suspected of the same offenses.
  • Education: It’s no secret that education is the key to social progression. Lack of access to quality education casts shadows of ignorance and desperation, which may lead individuals to criminal paths. Our studies show that illiteracy and low levels of education are indeed prevalent among both male and female criminals.
  • Peer Influence: Surroundings and companionship are crucial determinants of an individual’s behavior. Deviant peers can encourage criminal behavior through acceptance or reward for criminal conduct. Both male and female criminals often have backgrounds of getting associated with wrong social groups.

It’s necessary that we understand these influences and strive to create a society that deters criminal behavior rather than promoting it.

Final Thoughts

In our journey into the psychology of criminal behavior, we’ve discovered that drawing clear lines between male and female patterns is no simple task. Criminal actions are influenced by a delicate balance of personal psychological characteristics and societal influences, creating a complex landscape yet to be fully understood.

Research has illuminated some general trends – males tend to lean towards aggressive and antisocial behaviors, often associated with violent crimes. In contrast, females have been found to demonstrate manipulative behaviors more frequently, which mainly lead to deceitful activities like fraud or theft.

However, when navigating this labyrinth of criminal psychology, it’s essential to remember that these are broad trends, not definitive frameworks that encompass every criminal’s psychological landscape. Criminal behavior is unique to the individual, leading to a multitude of variations that defy gender-based generalizations and stereotypes.

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Lou Nightingale
Author: Lou Nightingale

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