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Ways that Male and Female Offenders are Different and Similar

Updated on September 24, 2014

When the public imagines a criminal, they will usually envision a male. This stereotype is not without substance, as the market on crime has long been cornered by men. Cauffman (2008) cited male offending to have been four times as high in 1980, with that disparity being reduced by half in the present. This means that the girls are catching up to the boys when it comes to criminal offending.

Female offenders are noted by Cauffman (2008) as frequently being mentally ill. Compared to male offenders, this occurrence is much higher in the female criminal. Female criminals are also more violent towards prison or mental health facility staff, according to Cauffman. The female offender is very unlikely to have completed secondary education, and has likely had harmful experiences in the home while growing up. The female offender is more likely to have been abused, with as much as 92% of offenders claiming to have been the victim of some form of abuse (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, 1998). The onset of delinquent behavior is difficult to nail down to a specific age range. The female offender is very likely to choose a criminal partner, and pass on their bad behaviors to their children, while the father's behaviors reinforce delinquency.

The male offender is not typically mentally ill. Their actions may be linked to both their experiences and exposures, as well as the higher amount of testosterone in their bodies. The male offender's onset is typically confined to a certain age range, and the life-long offender shows signs early on in childhood.


Males and females are substantially different in many ways when it comes to the offender. Comparing mental illness shows that the female offender is more likely to be mentally ill than the male offender. The age range of onset of criminal activity is fairly easy to pinpoint in the male offender than in the female offender, and the male offender typically offends longer than the female offender. The female offender, however, does more damage during their period of offending, and passes on their behavior to their children. In relationships, both male and female offenders tend to choose other criminal partners. The protective factor of partnered life and family responsibility in these cases can cause the male offender to cease offending, but in the female offender, the choice of a criminal partner will likely exacerbate her bad behavior. The female offender is much more likely to be the victim of abuse, whereas the male offender is more likely to have witnessed abuse (Cauffman and others, 1998).


Male and female offenders are also similar in many ways. For example “ADHD, negative temperament, impulsivity, compromised intelligence – predict antisocial behavior in both males and females...” (Cauffman, 2008). They both express abnormalities of some sort that can help predict if the individual will engage in criminal activity. Both males and females tend to pick romantic partners who are also antisocial.

Risk factors for both offenders are the same, with the exception of brain activity. For example, the brain activity in a normal female is reversed in a female offender, but in an offending male, there is no difference from a non-offending male (Baving, Laucht, & Schmidt, 2000). Regardless, other biological factors such as lower resting heart rates and exposure to a large amount of testosterone increase proclivity towards criminal behavior in both sexes. Victimization is also a major risk factor for both sexes, both as the victim and as an observer.


In conclusion, female offending is different than male offending enough to warrant the divergence of treatment and rehabilitation to that which is specifically tailored to the female offender's needs. There are many similarities between the two sexes, but far more differences. The female offender can be more dangerous, especially considering the high likelihood of mental illness being involved.


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