Jukka Savolainen, Samantha Applin, Steven F. Messner, Lorine A. Hughes, Robert Lytle, and Janne Kivivuori, “Does the Gender Gap in Delinquency Vary by Level of Patriarchy? A Cross-National Comparative Analysis,” Criminology , 2017
Protesters arrested at the 2008 Republican National Convention. Photo by Jeremy Noble, Flickr CC

Almost universally, women commit less crime than men. At the family-level, researchers explain this through gender socialization — in families where parents exert more control over daughters than sons, girls are less likely to commit crimes than boys. New research by Jukka Savolainen and colleagues examines the gender gap in crime on a larger scale by using data from 30 countries to determine how patriarchal attitudes and the social position of women may influence young women’s participation in crime.

The authors combine the International Self-Report Delinquency Survey — which measures youth’s participation in crime in 30 nations — with attitudinal measures of gender equality from the World Values Survey and the Gender Inequality Index from the United Nations —  which measures gender disparities across nations in areas such as economic status and reproductive health. Consistent with previous research, they find a gender gap in crime participation. While young men participated in more crime than young women overall, the gap is greater in countries with greater patriarchal attitudes and higher levels of gender inequality. In other words, young men and women commit crimes at more similar levels in countries with more gender equality, and this is due to a combination of young women committing more crime and young men committing less crime. 

In sum, decreases in patriarchal attitudes and practices influence both male and female participation in crime. The authors suggest that variations in patriarchal norms across countries may alter gendered socialization practices, gender differences in parental supervision, and gendered attitudes and behavioral expectations — all of which may affect future participation in crime.