All men are rapists and that's all they are. (Marilyn French)

    Feminist criminology contains many branches. Liberal, radical, Marxist, and socialist feminism are widely recognized, although other "strands" exist such as postmodernism and ecofeminism.  Most feminist criminology involves critiques about how women offenders have been ignored, distorted, or stereotyped within traditional criminology, but there is no shortage of separate theories and modifications of existing theories.  Almost all women criminologists or criminologists of women who examine gender and crime have addressed the "gender ratio" problem (why women are less likely, and men more likely, to commit crime). Others study the generalizability problem (whether traditional male theories can modified to explain female offending).  Most feminists are quick to point out where stereotypical thinking and theoretical dead ends exist, although the main problem complained about in most criminology is the simple fact that gender matters and should not be ignored.

    Liberal feminism operates within the existing social structures to draw attention to women's issues, promote women's rights, increase women's opportunities, and transform women's roles in society.  Radical feminism looks at how women came to occupy subservient roles in the first place, what male power consists of, and how societies themselves can be transformed.  Marxist feminism ties patriarchy or male privilege into the economic structure of capitalism, as when female offenders are sentenced for property or sexual crimes (by threatening male dominance of property relationships or male control of women's bodies).  Socialist feminism offers ideas about more equitable roles for women as sex providers, child bearers, nursemaids, and homemakers, so that they can take their rightful place in society.  Postmodern feminism substitutes language production for economic production and studies how discourse and male-dominated thinking is used to set women apart.


     American feminism has its origins in the 1848 women's rights convention held at Seneca Falls, New York where a "Declarations of Sentiments and Resolutions" was passed.  This first wave of feminism was anti-slavery oriented and wished for the emancipation of peoples everywhere who were being usurped and exploited.  It ended in 1920 with passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote.  Second-wave feminism started in the late 1960s and was called the "women's liberation movement", devoted to greater social, political, and economic equality.  It focused on the emancipation of women and liberal correctives to the role of women in society.  The third wave of feminism started in the late 1980s, devoted to an analysis of patriarchy, or the pervasiveness of male dominance.  It was basically a critical or radical movement that looked into how society could be transformed.


    Masculine theorizing tends to be linear, rational, quick, certain, objective, and hierarchical.  Feminine theorizing tends to be slower, intuitive, more circular, iterative, and tentative.  Therefore, feminist criminology contains little by way of grand theories or confirmatory statistical analyses.  The existing techniques for evaluating and assessing criminological theories may not apply to feminist criminology.  Nevertheless, there have been some interesting strands of thought in the criminology of female offenders, as follows:

Some Early (Stereotypical) Theories

    Sigmund Freud's theory consisted of the idea that all women experience penis envy and suffer an inferiority complex over it, which they try to compensate for by being exhibitionistic and narcissistic. Freud thought that women were also basically irrational in that they weren't concerned with being builders of civilization, but with scanty, trivial matters.  Freud thought, for example, that women don't have much of a sense of justice.  Female crime was interpreted as longing for a penis.  This is obviously a characterization of female criminals that feminists reject.

    Cesare Lombroso in 1903 published The Female Offender which characterized short, dark-haired women with moles and masculine features as good candidates for becoming criminals.  He thought criminal women were stronger than men, that they could handle pain better, and that prison would hardly affect them at all.  This is also a characterization of the female offender that feminists reject.

    W.I. Thomas in 1923 published The Unadjusted Girl which claimed that women committed crime out of wishes for excitement and new experiences.  Women were seen as feeling confined under monogamy, and having a lot of pent-up sexual energy which was released in criminal acts.  This notion is rejected by feminists.

    Otto Pollak in 1950 published The Criminality of Women which characterized female offenders as sneaky, deceitful, vengeful, and unemotional. He claimed, for example, that they prefer professions like maids, nurses, teachers, and homemakers so they can engage in undetectable crime.  He thought they were especially subject to certain mental diseases like kleptomania and nymphomania.  This notion is also rejected by feminists.

Critiques of Traditional, Mainstream (Male stream) Theories

    Social disorganization theory, which posits an environmental or subcultural tradition of criminal values that exist in an area, regardless of who lives in the area, is strongly criticized by feminists for only making parenthetical reference to women.  Thrasher, a leading exponent of the social disorganization perspective, felt that girls and women committed less crime because they were more closely supervised by boys and men.  This notion of patriarchal control forms the basis of at least one modern theory, called power-control theory by Hagan, Simpson & Gillis (1987), but the main feminist critique of the disorganization perspective involves the absence of qualitative, case-study research on the lives of women themselves.

    Strain theories are criticized by feminists as betraying a double standard.  Under strain theory, when a male offender commits a crime under certain conditions of opportunity blockage, their commission of crime is somehow seen as a "normal" or functional response.  When women commit crime, strain theory views it as some sort of "weakness" which betrays the double standard.  Naffine (1987) probably represents the best example of this critique, but there are other critiques, such as the characterization of females as "helpmates" or facilitators of crime in the strain theories of Cohen and Cloward and Ohlin. 

    Learning theories, such as Sutherland's differential association theory, is primarily criticized by feminists for relying upon male examples, using case studies of males only, and being a male-dominated perspective that glamorizes the male criminal, or at least the sociable, gregarious, active, and athletic characteristics of the male criminal.

    Control theories, such as Hirschi's social bond theory, is primarily criticized by feminists for focusing almost exclusively on social class at the expense of gender and race.  Feminists tend to focus on gender, and the interaction of gender and race (women of color) as obdurate, hardened, near-group characteristics that have about the same causative influence as class.  


    In 1975, two books, Freda Adler's Sisters in Crime and Rita Simon's Women and Crime proposed that the emancipation of women and increased economic opportunities for women allowed women to be as crime-prone as men.  Simon also predicted that the criminal justice system would start treating men and women offenders equally.  There is mixed empirical evidence for this emancipation or liberation thesis, and some would say that absolutely no empirical evidence exists for it and the notion is discredited (Chesney-Lind & Pasko 2004).  Women are not committing the "big take" offenses (like stock fraud and other white collar crimes) men do.  Instead, they are committing vastly different crimes than they did back in the 19th century (like poisoning).  The chivalry thesis (that the criminal justice system treats women more leniently) also has produced mixed empirical results.  In some ways, the system is more lenient; in other ways, it comes down more harshly.  Sex differentials in sentencing are subject to a variety of interpretations, and not all feminists want the criminal justice system to treat women equally.

    Studies of Patriarchy tend to look at everything from female membership in male-dominated professions to the "rape culture" with promotes female victimization.  The study of patriarchy has allowed feminists to uncover hidden forms of violence (like leering) against women.  Feminist critiques of pedagogy (how teachers teach) have also become quite common, as education, particularly criminal justice education, becomes the domain for discovering examples of male-dominated thinking and examples of the marginalization thesis (women being reminded that they are only women). 

More Recent Female Theories

    The role of extralegal factors in the administration of justice is a long-standing area of research.  The bulk of studies have concluded that women are accorded more lenient treatment than men, however, whether this is a function of the lesser seriousness of the charges against them or something else remains unanswered.  The most common hypotheses have involved the notions of chivalry and paternalism.  Chivalry represents the idea that the criminal justice system puts women on a pedestal, and treats them like a protector.  Paternalism is a more sinister view of the criminal justice system, that women are treated more childlike or mentally challenged.  See Crew (1991) for a good review of how researchers have tried to separate the chivalry and paternalism factors.

    Another area of research related to the study of chivalry and paternalism involves the evil woman hypothesis (Erez 1992), which involves a conception of female offenders processed by the system as being "unladylike" and violating gender-role expectations.   Such offenders usually receive no leniency.  Again, this approach, like Hagan's power-control theory, is a not-so-subtle variant of the liberation hypothesis.

    Sex differentials are rarely statistically significant.  This does not mean, however, that this area of study is not socially significant or meaningful in other ways.  Research in this area does tend to shed light on extralegal factors (things that should not influence the justice system) as well as how systems of informal social control merge, mix, or influence formal system of social control.  There is also the matter of finding a theoretical framework or model in which to do feminist scholarship in criminology.  One of the problems is this last area is the seeming inability of such scholarship to find itself into refereed journals.  Most feminist criminology is the subject of presentations at professional conferences or in venues other than the publication outlets that male criminologists use.


   Reliable statistics on the extent of female crime are hard to come by.  It is widely known, for example, that females usually account for about 15% or 17% of all violent crime and 28% of all property crime. However, there has been about a 140% increase in the number of crimes committed by women since 1970, and the upward trend is steady.  Researchers typically track female offenders on FBI Part II offenses since they far outnumber men in two Part II categories: prostitution and runaway.  However, they have significant numbers in embezzlement (41%), fraud (39%), forgery (36%), and larceny-theft (33%).  For homicide, one of the most frequently-cited facts is a Justice Department study in 1991 which found females who were incarcerated for murder were twice as likely as men incarcerated for murder to have killed an intimate (husband, boyfriend, or child).  Female serial killers also account for 8% of all American serial killers.  Hickey's (2002) subsample of 62 females out of 399 serial killers found the following methods and motives.

Methods Motives
1. Poison (80%)
2. Shooting (20%)
3. Bludgeoning (16%)
4. Suffocation (16%)
5. Stabbing (11%)
6. Drowning (5%)
1. Money (74%)
2. Control (13%)
3. Enjoyment (11%)
4. Sex (10%)
5. Drugs, Cult involvement, cover up, or feelings of inadequacy (24%)

    Among female offenders, minorities compose a slightly larger percentage of the inmate population than among male offenders.  Female offenders are also slightly older (by at least three years) than typical male offenders, and the average age of a female offender is 30+ years of age.  Only 28% of all female offenders are juveniles.  Between two and three million female offenders are arrested every year, and 60% of them tell the police they have experienced physical or sexual abuse in the past.  The vast majority of female offenders commit their crime alone, alcohol and drugs are involved most of the time, and the most common places where the crime occurs is near a tavern, at home, or in the workplace.  Female offenders are more likely to use their fists and feet when they assault somebody, as opposed to men who are more likely to use a weapon, the exception to this being use of a knife, which is about equally likely for men as it is for women.

    Every year, about 11,000 children are killed by their parents, and mothers or stepmothers account for about half of these murders, actually slightly more than half (statistics vary from 53% to 57%).  The most typical pattern is for a female offender to kill a child while the child is young or still an infant.  When fathers or stepfathers murder their children, the child is typically age 8 or older.  Here's a comparison table of who kills whom based on 1998 data:






Spouse 28% 6%
Ex-spouse 2% 1%
Child 17% 8%
Boy/Girlfriend 14% 4%
Acquaintance 32% 55%
Stranger 7% 25%

       It is somewhat controversial, and indeed, a key research question, if female crime is more violent today than in the past (Chesney-Lind & Pasko 2004).  Lest the reader get the impression that female offenders are strongly involved in violent crime, it is important to remember that they are much more heavily involved in property crime, followed perhaps by drug offenses and nuisance crimes, like prostitution.  Larceny-theft is not only the most common crime in America, but it is the offense category in which female offenders predominate.  Larceny-theft entails a variety of crimes characterized by the taking away of someone else's property.  Examples of larceny-theft include shoplifting, credit card fraud, bad check writing (naive check forgery), price tag switching, welfare fraud, telemarketing fraud, con games, improper title transfers of property, real estate fraud, motor vehicle registration fraud, intellectual property theft, theft or false complaining about food, lodging, or services.  In all these offense categories, female offenders are heavily involved, and qualitative research suggests that they typically see their behavior as an entitlement, habit, or way of life.  In fact, almost all female crime is concentrated in just two offense categories:  larceny-theft and drugs.


    Larceny-theft by women is composed first and foremost of arrests for shoplifting, and the study of shoplifting has a long legacy in criminology (Cameron 1953).  Some estimates are as high as 80% of all shoplifters being women, and although men sometimes engage in shoplifting, women are far more likely to steal more items than men, steal items from several stores, and steal items of lesser value.  Men shoplift by knowing what they want, coming in the store, and stealing it.  Women shop around, and are often so mesmerized by the seductive properties of an object they see for the first time that they feel they have to steal it.  Women tend to steal clothing, cosmetics, jewelry, and personal hygiene products, in that order.  Both women and men are equally likely to steal something they don't really need, but women are more likely to steal necessities.  Studies of modern shoplifting patterns among women (e.g. in Morris 1987) indicate that women may be more frequently caught for this offense simply because store detectives are on the lookout more often for women than men.  Embezzlement is the next most common type of offending in the larceny-theft category, and a good deal of this is bank embezzlement.  60% of women convicted of embezzlement were bank tellers.  Pilfering or stealing from one's own employer is also quite common, and generally doesn't support the legal charge of embezzlement, but is counted as some type of fraud or business offense.  Studies that have been done on female embezzlers (Zietz 1981) indicate that most are fairly careless or foolish in how they go about it, often forgetting to cover or disguise their tracks.              

    With drug offenses, female offenders are much more likely to be arrested and charged with possession, as opposed to males, who are more likely to be charged with trafficking or intent to deliver.  Likewise, with public order offenses, such as driving while intoxicated, where women are much more likely than men to receive probation.  With nuisance offenses like prostitution, it depends upon the jurisdiction where there might be variable degrees of community tolerance.  Finally, there are some interesting regional variations in female crime.  States like Texas and California (followed by Florida, New York, Ohio, Illinois, Georgia, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Michigan) tend to have inordinately large female offender populations.  This may be because those states are tougher on female criminals, or there may be something in those regions that is associated with the causes of female crime.    Women arrested for DUI tend to be older than men who are arrested for DUI, and the average age range for male DUI arrest is the mid-thirties.  Women also tend to drink alone, for escapist reasons, and to deny treatment (Coles 1991).  Any substance abuse counselor will tell you that there are significant gender differences in addiction and alcoholism.  Women tend to rationalize their addiction in gendered ways with drugs being used as appetite suppressants (tobacco, cocaine, meth) or as refuge from strained family relationships (alcohol and marijuana).  A body of research indicates that women are more likely to become polydrug users than men, and to be more ready to experiment with drugs such as heroin.  Another line of significant research has looked at crack cocaine, and specifically the notion of "crack pipe as pimp" which means that an exploitative form of prostitution has been developed by men around women's addiction to crack cocaine.  Men are to blame for developing the crack culture since men have discovered that crack is extremely good at reducing a woman's inhibitions.  Harrowing stories of crack-for-sex abound in the literature.   


    I don't know how useful this may be to readers, but I've managed to maintain a list of significant writers and researchers in the field, although I make no guarantees that it is complete and hasn't left somebody out, but the fact that such a list can be easily assembled gives some idea of how small the field actually is.

ADLER, Freda. author of Sisters in Crime 1975 predicts new female criminal based on women's liberation
ADLER, Patricia. co-author of 1985 Wheeling & Dealing ethnographer of drug dealing, sports
AGETON, Suzanne. author of Sexual Assault among Adolescents 1983 delinquency researcher
BASKIN, Deborah. routine activities researcher of female robbery using knife and fists
BERNARD, Jessie. popular feminist of motherhood
BLOCK, Carolyn. ecological homicide researcher, co-author of Homicide in Chicago with husband, Richard
BOX-GRAINGER, Jill. left realist theorist of rape
BRAITHWAITE, John. male labeling theorist who writes about women
BRANTINGHAM, Patricia. co-author of Patterns in Crime 1984 ecological/learning researcher
BROWNE, Angela. author of 1987 When Battered Women Kill
BROWNMILLER, Susan. author of Against Our Will 1975 rape as violence, men as natural predators
CAMERON, Mary Owen. author of The Booster & The Snitch 1964 studied shoplifters (80% female)
CAMPBELL, Anne. author of 1991 The Girls in the Gang female gang ethnographer
CANTER, Rachelle. researcher of sex differential in crime and family correlates of female delinquency.
CARINGELLA-MACDONALD, Susan. marxist researcher on rape, race and gender, feminist peacemaking
CAUFIELD, Susan. peacemaking criminologist
CAVAN, Ruth. Chicago-school sociologist of prostitution and suicide, comparative delinquency
CAVAN, Sherri. author of Liquor License ethnographer of b-girls
CHESNEY-LIND, Meda. co-author of 1988 "Feminism and Criminology" Justice Quarterly, 5, 497-538: synthesized feminist criminology, researched chivalry, female inmates
CLARK, Shirley. early learning theory researcher
COHEN, Jacqueline. rational choice and lambda (crime persistence) researcher
COHN, Ellen. author of "Weather & Crime" 1990, researcher of famous criminologists
COWIE, Valerie. co-author of 1968 Delinquency in Girls female offender as lumpish, uncouth & ungraceful.
CRITES, Laura. editor of 1976 The Female Offender
DALY, Kathleen. co-author of 1988 "Feminism and Criminology" Justice Quarterly, 5, 497-538: synthesized feminist criminology, researcher of white-collar crime by females
DATESMAN, Susan. strain researcher of female crime
DAVIS, Nanette. labeling/critical theorist of prostitution
DeKESEREDY, Walter. male socialist feminist, author of 1991 Woman Abuse
DOBASH, Rebecca. co-author of 1979 Violent Against Wives along with husband, Russell
DWORKIN, Andrea. author of 1987 Intercourse idea of all men as loving death and murder
EREZ, Edna. victimologist and researcher of situational influences on planned offenses
ESTRICH, Susan. author of 1987 Real Rape rape victim/law professor, debunked "jump-out-of-bushes"
FARNWORTH, Margaret. strain/integrated theorist of female crime
FIGUEIRA-McDONOUGH, Josefina. a strain theory researcher
FISHBEIN, Diana. psychobiologist of female crime
GARTNER, Rosemarie. women and crime cross-national studies
GIALLAMBARDO, Rose. early researcher of womens' prisons
GIDO, Rosemary. researcher of women in corrections
GILLIGAN, Carol. author of In a Different Voice 1982 moral development theorist, female ethic of care
GIORDANO, Peggy. strain researcher of female crime
GLUECK, Eleanor (& Sheldon). 500 Delinquent Women 1934 eclectic researcher/theorist
GOETTING, Ann. labeling theorist and researcher of women who kill
GOTTFREDSON, Denise. routine activities researcher and preventive intervention specialist
GRAY, Phyllis. strain/learning researcher
GRIFFIN, Susan. author of widely reproduced 1971 article "Rape: An All-American Crime"
HAGAN, John. male conflict theorist who writes about women
HALE, Donna. differential treatment researcher of policing and criminal justice system
HARRIS, Anthony. male masculinity theorist of sex-scripts
HARRIS, M. Kay. feminist peacemaking theorist
HEIDENSOHN, Frances. British researcher of female deviance
HEYL, Barbara. sociologist of prostitution, debunked nymphomania
HINDELANG, Michael. replicated many studies on sex differentials in offending
HORNEY, Julie. researcher of judicial decision making
HOROWITZ, Ruth. researcher of female chicano gangs, welfare
HUNT, Jennifer. differential treatment researcher of policing
JACKSON, Pamela Irving. researcher of policing
JAMES, Jennifer. researcher/theorist of prostitution; cognitive psychologist, females minimize risk
JENKINS, Patricia Harris. control researcher of social bonds and school delinquency
JURIK, Nancy. labeling theorist and researcher of women who kill
KLEIN, Dorie. synthesized psychobiology literature in "The Etiology of Female Crime"
KONOPKA, Gisela. author of The Adolescent Girl. 1966, isolation and love deprivation explanations
KORNHAUSER, Ruth. criticizer of traditional theories
KRUTTSCHNITT, Candace. labeling researcher of differential treatment and statuses related to gender
LEONARD, Eileen. textbook writer who recasted old theories, 1982 Women, Crime & Society
LEVER, Janet. sports sociologist, only 37% of girls' games competitive: girls play, boys game
LOMBROSO-FERRERO, Gina. daughter of Lombroso, popularized her father's ideas.
LUXENBURG, Joan. prostitution researcher, peacemaking theorist
McCARTHY, Belinda. differential sentencing, ethics researcher
McCORD, Joan. co-author of 1959 Origins of Crime; inconsistent discipline causes crime
MACCOBY, Eleanor. cognitive psychologist of sex differences
MACDONALD, Joan. rape researcher, women in professions, educational theory with husband J. Garofalo
MACKINNON, Catherine. Marxist researcher of rape, all sex is coercion, all men are warmongers
MANN, Coramae Richey. researcher of black female homicide, racism and sexism
MESSERSCHMIDT, James. male socialist feminist, author of 1993 Masculinities and Crime
MILLETT, Kate. author of radical feminist text Sexual Politics 1970 coined the term "patriarchy"
MOORE, Joan. researcher along with Ruth Horowitz on Chicano gangs and migration factors
MORASH, Mary. researcher of female gangs & recidivism
MORRIS, Ruth. author of 1964 "Female Delinquency and Relational Problems"
MOULDS, Elizabeth. chivalry researcher
MOYER, Imogene. researcher of womens' prisons, educational theorist
MYERS, Martha. researcher of court discrimination
NAFFINE, Ngaire. author of 1987 Female Crime criticizer of traditional theories
NAGEL, Ilene. power-control researcher of court discrimination
OAKLEY, Annie. popular feminist of sex and gender roles
OBUDEKUN, Lola. researcher of differential sentencing
PETERSILIA, Joan. learning theorist and policy researcher
PETERSON, Ruth. researcher of female offense patterns and trends
POLLAK, Otto. author of 1950 Criminality of Women which saw female offender as sneaky
RADFORD, Jill. left realist researcher of crimes against women
RAFTER, Nicole. marxist critical theorist of crimes against women, prisons, integrated theory
RENZETTI, Claire. author of Violent Betrayal 1992 which analyzes partner abuse in lesbian relationships
RICHARDS, Pamela. author along with Brenda Forster of 1979 Crime as Play; middle class theorist
ROSS, Catherine. powerlessness researcher with John Mirowsky, scale developer, strain theorist
RUCKER, Lisa. prison researcher, peacemaking theorist
RUSSELL, Diana. author of Rape in Marriage 1982 and co-author of Femicide 1992; politics of crime
SANDAY, Peggy. author of Fraternity Gang Rape 1990; male bonding rituals
SCHWENDINGER, Julia. co-author of 1983 Rape & Inequality & 1985 Adolescent Subcultures; notion of crime as human rights violation, Marxist feminist, conflict theorist with husband Herman
SCUTT, Jocelynne. australian learning researcher; liberation thesis tester
SHEEHY, Gail. sociologist of prostitution, debunked nymphomania
SIMON, Rita. author of The Contemporary Woman 1975 predicts new female criminal, end of chivalry
SIMPSON, Sally. author of 1989 "Feminist Theory, Crime & Justice"; synthesizer, white collar researcher
SMART, Carol. author of 1976 Women, Crime & Criminology criticizer of traditional theories
SMITH, Douglas. male learning researcher of female crime, studied sex differentials and aging-out
SOMERVILLE, Dora. co-author of 1975 The Delinquent Girl female offender as nymphomaniac
SPOHN, Cassia. researcher of judicial decision making
STANKO, Elizabeth. author of Intimate Intrusions 1985 criminal justice system as 2nd assailant
STEINMETZ, Suzanne. family researcher and author 1978 "The Battered Husband Syndrome"
STEFFENSMEIER, Darrell. male liberal feminist, researcher of sex differentials, masculinity theorist
STOUTHAMER-LOEBER, Magda. synthesizer of family research, co-author of Rolf Loeber
STRAUS, Murry. male strain researcher of spouse abuse, conflict tactics scale, 1980 Behind Closed Doors
SUTHERLAND, Anne. deviance researcher of gypsies & women hustlers
SWIGERT, Victoria. labeling theorist, integrationist, 1976 Murder, Inequality and the Law
THOMAS, Dorothy. wife of W.I. Thomas, popularized her husband's ideas
TRIPLETT, Ruth. labeling researcher of self-image
VAN VOORHIS, Patricia. researcher on family factors, prison classification methods
VISHER, Christy. researcher of chivalry and career criminals
WALKER, Lenore. author of 1984 The Battered Woman Syndrome
WARNER, Barbara. researcher of policing
WARSHAW, Ruth. author of I Never Called It Rape 1988; campus party culture, quota systems
WIDOM, Cathy. researcher of early abuse experiences in women and men
WILSON, Margo. researcher of male sexual proprietariness and spousal homicide
WILSON, Nancy. researcher of women in CJ education
WISE, Nancy. researcher of middle class delinquency
WONDERS, Nancy. peacemaking criminologist
WOOTEN, Barbara. early mala in se/mala prohibita theorist
YOUNG, Vernetta. researcher/theorist of black female offending
ZAHN, Margaret. researcher of female violence, homicide, sudden rage
ZATZ, Marjorie. researcher of differential sentencing


    Comprehensive, general, unified, synthetic, grand, and configurational -- these are just some of the terms routinely encountered as synonymous with the term "integrated."   Theoretical integration became quite the fashionable thing to do in the 1980s, and numerous criminologists have debated the advantages and disadvantages.  It is important for students to know what integration is, what it is not, what it really is, how it is done, and the criteria for proper assessment.  A couple of criteria for "good" integrated theory are adequacy and utility.  Adequacy refers to the ability to keep up with recent developments or emerging trends, and utility refers to how well a theory addresses recurrent dilemmae in social science.

    One must avoid the so-called integrationist error which diverts attention from matters of substance to matters of form.  Integrative efforts have, by convention, been interdisciplinary efforts, and to some degree, imperialistic as they step all over the turf of other disciplines.  Sometimes it is good to see what other disciplines are doing, but in most cases, there is a need to be singular and get one's own house in order.  A basic rule is that one should not do integration for the sake of integration.  There must be more lofty goals involved.  In the grand tradition of systems theory, there is believed to be a common language (isomorphism) that can be identified for all disciplines, and it may be important to find and use that language for integrated theory.  For example, Karl Menninger's sin-crime-illness model is isomorphic in the sense that all societies seem to go through a sequential stage of defining a problem as sinful, then criminal, and then as some sort of disease to be cured.  Other criminologists have thought about self-control and social defense as endpoints of a spectrum, and criminal justice, of course, has the concept of pendulum swing between due process and crime control.  It's important to build on these efforts, and not neglect them.

What Integrated Theory is Not
    What is called an integrated theory of the middle range often amounts to conceptual borrowing, or conceptual integration.  It's the easiest thing to do, but it rests on looseness of operationalization.  A conceptual borrower frequently argues that even though the hypothetical constructs are different, they mean the same thing for explanatory purposes.  Such a theorist is basically taking liberties with validity and reliability to construct integrated theory in this manner.  An interdisciplinary facade often masks reductionism.  Synthesis becomes the grouping of concepts within concepts.  Explanation is often sacrificed for prediction.  OBI (Obliteration By Incorporation) occurs, or theorists fall victim to the "Wozzle Effect," where terms with qualification and richness change meaning and are passed on thru multiple references in the literature.  There's too much of this already, and it should cease.

    Another "bad" approach is what some people call metatheory.  Here, testability is avoided, and a noncompetitive theoretical environment is sought, and the theorist argues for things like "open space" to enlarge room for discourse.  Metatheory can be an orienting strategy for a discipline that has lost its way, but a metatheory also has antipathy for unit theories, implying the latter were deliberately designed to produce ambiguous hypotheses.  Metatheory does not engage in reductionism but instead engages in abstraction to the neglect of one or another discipline.  It is best seen as an effort to wipe out the remnants of some discipline, like biology or psychology.   Within criminology, it can be argued that sociology is the metatheory.  Metatheory commits the fallacy of affirming the consequence. Metatheory, when done properly, is always at the presuppositional level, never at the level of explanation.

What Integrated Theory Really Is
    Criminology has all forms of social organization and behavior as its subject matter.  The level of explanation problem derives from the field's long-standing interest in conformity.  It is sometimes just as important to ask why people obey the law as it is to ask why they disobey it.  Types of integration that derive from this approach are called "general", "unified", or "synthetic", and try to subsume motivational, interactionist, and systemic domains.  The reduction is often to a social psychology that bridges the micro-macro gap, either frustration-aggression or relative deprivation, or in other cases, reduction to some type of social psychological concept.

    Other attempts at integration derive from a long-standing recognition of the relativity of deviance.  What is considered "bad" or "wrong" is, of course, always in the eye of the beholder.  Variously called "comprehensive", "grand", or "configurational" theory, these kinds of efforts aim at unification or convergence, although the claim is much more modest, such as saying the time is right to recognize more inclusive definitions of phenomena under study. Perhaps integrated criminology should be less modest, but I imagine that criminologists who remember wouldn't want a return to the grand, ecumenical scheme of Parsonian sociology.  Parsons saw convergence everywhere, yet there is this thrust within the integrated theory movement that we are experiencing a "glut" of too many ideas, and they all need to be connected somehow.

How Integrated Theory is Really Done
    There are a number of schemes for doing integrated theory.  One method, called parallel integration, or "side-by-side" integration, partitions the act and actor characteristics, while avoiding a "hardening of the categories." Theorists who go down this route are usually those applied criminologists who want to achieve something useful for practitioners or law enforcement.  The FBI and Justice Department is infamous for this because all they do is take the best ideas of all the criminological theories, such as strain, learning, and control, and lay them alongside one another as some sort of "master" theory producing such things as the idea that all crime is caused by blocked economic opportunity plus peer influence plus improper parenting.  Real theorists are genuinely interested in creating a structure-process synthesis that asks what comes first instead of laying ideas side by side.  Often the result of parallel integration is an ideal-type typology, the better ones leaving room for exceptions and particulars.  Parallel integration should mean that individual differences can be construed as heterogeneity without marginality, but frequently it results in stereotypes.  This method should have some appeal to feminists and those who study ethnic minorities, but it is ironic that we don't see more typologies from them.  Perhaps they are afraid of stereotyping, or having their ideas co-opted by law enforcement.

    Next, there is a method called sequential integration, or "end-to-end" integration, which involves careful causal ordering of variables to focus on intervening or mediating influences.  Sometimes, this method is called elaboration by statisticians.  Both graphic depiction and quantitative tests usually show the last variable as the best predictor.  One can, of course, reverse the independent and dependent variables across unit theories, or do what is called "contextual analysis."  The latter is not so much ecological as it is an attempt to find natural, quasi-experimental situations in lieu of statistical manipulation of the independent variable.  Integrated criminology often cannot manipulate the independent variable, not can it wait for the resolution of controversies in quantitative methodology.  Theory ought to be way out ahead of statistics anyway.  Sequences can be cycles or spirals, traced-back from outcomes, traced-forward from episodes, or traced-through stages, steps, periods, or phases, with all sorts of stage-skipping opportunities.  Sequential integration calls attention to the need for a developmental criminology or a dialectical criminology.

    Finally, there is a method called deductive integration, or "up-and-down" or "top-to-bottom" integration, which identifies a level of abstract generality, and generates or synthesizes new concepts.  Lesser units are subsumed as a special case of the grand theory.  The Herculean task is to synthesize along logico-deductive lines while avoiding both revisionism and reductionism.  This approach derives from criminological eclecticism, going back to the Gluecks, and explicitly refuses to make a priori assumptions about the relative importance of any level or concepts within and between levels.  Often, the focus is upon the points of contact between processes, as in the conflict-accommodation-consensus paradigm.  I don't mean to sound pessimistic, but it is doubtful if an encyclopedic criminology can ever be developed in this fashion.  This is the most difficult way to do integration.

    The first requirement for a "good" integrated theory is a clear and explicit epistemology. It is wrong to equate epistemology with ideology, as some critics are prone to do.  Recent epistemological developments in criminology include a hedonistic, utilitarian, tension-reduction model (as in low self control theory), sensual compulsions and meaningful seductions (as in Katz' seductions of crime theory), and the situational ethics of attribution theory (as in some developmental and interactionist theories).  Hedonism, of course, has been the dominant epistemology in criminology, and it has some merit, but criminology needs more than another revised utilitarianism, or form of hedonism.  Sentience does not imply hedonism.  Learning theory, for example, could really benefit from a look at possible altruistic centers in the brain, and intelligence theories should really look at different kinds of intelligence.  Sensuality may also be important, and this seems to be what some feminists are getting at.  Sensuality directs our attention to the foreground rather than background of the actor.  Far too often, however, when we study sensuality, we stick with a Marxian social psychology, a theology of good and evil, or collapse into that form of cognitive reductionism called phenomenology.  Again, we need an epistemology that not only tells us what we know, but provides some moral guidance.  Moral relativism and situational morality should be unacceptable in criminology.

The Importance of Epistemology
    The basic epistemological problem for criminology is voluntarism vs. determinism, or the free will vs. determinism debate.  This is represented in most textbooks by the classical and positive schools, and it is what has separated criminology from law, since law is based on the assumption of voluntarism and science is based on the assumption of determinism.   The tension is so bad in criminology that students are often exposed to images of the criminal that vary between romanticized "Robin Hoods" redistributing wealth and compulsive mesomorphs with a "monkey on their back."  Nor is the problem confined to criminology.  Law has its own problems.  Any scientific jurisprudence would create anomic states between freedom and responsibility, with civil law taking up the slack.  To keep down on the growth of civil law, we've created a relatively unscientific criminal law that presumes intent in the form of free will.  Hobbes once pointed out that "To omit responsibility is the definition of sin."  What is needed is something along the lines of a multidimensional epistemology that recognizes the compatibility of free will and necessity, and probably draws upon the concepts of intuition, counter-intuition, apperception, and analytic realism (like Whitehead's philosophy in the early 20th Century or the law's feeble grasp on concepts like nexus).  Parsons's unique approach to the mind-body problem may also be useful.  At the risk of sounding ridiculous, let me try to illustrate how a multidimensional epistemology would work.  Free will would be seen as sometimes coming from outside the actor instead of always inside the actor.  Determinism could be seen as sometimes coming from inside the actor.  Such an epistemology can be combined with situational or sensualistic assumptions, and points of contact, or interpenetration, would get at the warp and woof of social life.

    Another task for integrated criminology is to address the question of what human nature is really like.  The task is not so much to explain human nature nor is it an atomistic exercise at outlining parts of the self, like psychology is so happy to keep on doing.   Instead, criminologists ask the question "how can an individual be both cause and consequence of society," and indeed, this is a sociological question going all the way back to Comte.  Criminologists are intimately engaged in the study of reciprocal effects.  The core content areas of criminology such as aggression and conformity, or violence and nonviolence, have been usurped by other disciplines, but it is up to criminology to shed light on the whole "homo duplex" or "homo homini lupus" question.  Sociologists only theorize about it, but criminologists are tasked with the responsibility for testing it.

    There may be no such thing as a "personality" and some criminologists, such as Hirschi & Gottfredson have suggested that the term "disposition" may be a much better term.  The persistence of the personality notion probably derives from the influence of Freud on criminology, and it may be time to abandon Freud.  But there is another tradition in social psychology, the social structure and personality approach, which provides ideas consistent with what criminologists mean by disposition.  Personality no longer means a stable set of propensities. Dispositions refer to motivational urges against societal pressures.  The idea of urges at the personality level is isomorphic with what some call "salience" at the macro-level.  Both terms capture the reciprocal process of being both product and producer as well as incorporate human diversity.  Integrated theory may want to usurp the social structure and personality approach.  To some extent, this is done with character studies, identity theories, and life events models, but some better points of entry are possible.  In any event, criminologists who write criminological theory need to stop ending their discussions with the beginnings of an implicit social psychology.

    As Akers and others have repeatedly pointed out, a major problem in criminology is the consensus-conflict debate, and the best that can be concluded is that all theories are partly correct, partly wrong, and none wholly adequate.  In one sense, the problem of order exists at the presuppositional level, and doesn't really matter, but in another sense, it is vitally important because it is concerned with the notions of concentricity and equifinality of social control.  In other words, we will never have a rational system of punishment until we resolve this problem.

    The functionalist legacy has left the indelible idea that disapproved behavior plays a major part in social order. Newer conceptions of deviance have emphasized social control as a causative variable.  The consensus-conflict debate today concentrates on the control side, with deviance, crime, and craziness being little more than residual categories of a focus on deterrence and punishment.  Typologies of control need to be more than simple dichotomies of coercive-noncoercive, formal-informal, official-unofficial.  They need to get back to the classic problem of order which informed  formulated social control in the first place as relatively spontaneous and invisible.  For the very reason that social forces may be invisible, it may be preferable that integrated criminology follow an order rather than conflict perspective.  A completely ordered society exists only hypothetically, and consensus is mostly a compromise between discordant values such as liberty and responsibility or individualism and collectivism.  The concept of boundaries best captures this vital balance, and far too many conflict approaches ignore this.

    Human behavior is a continuous flow of conduct.  It is only analytically that we type it into series of acts. What integrates society does not have to be the same thing that socializes people.  An image of hyperactive humans desperately seeking socialization is not realistic when actors are conceived of as ever a process and never a product. Structure logically precedes action, and there are limits to the "morphogenic tendency" where roles are created out of "as if" behavior which is periodically appraised in negotiation, compromise, and bargaining.  These interactions are what others have referred to as feedback loops or the influence of reference groups, the latter being a good example of both input and output loops in the study of human agency.  Whether the output are subcultures or the input is the residual effect of deterrence, feedback loops are institutional mechanisms of human agency that generate both old and new (negative and positive) forms of human behavior which theoretically sequence with historical circumstances and situational strains.  Norms and roles only specify a range of acceptable behavior, and integrated criminology should be sensitive to the processual nature of simultaneity.

    In many ways, the structure-process debate is an argument over rationality.  It is a fact that individuals have motivations and people do seem to choose favorable alternatives while avoiding unfavorable ones.  However, there are two basic problems with this conception of rationality.  One, there are distinct limits to the capacities of human beings to be forever calculating and maximizing.  Actors will do well to reach a level of satisficing, a strategy of allowing certain things to run routinely.  Two, there is the problem of incommensurability. How are different rewards and costs to be measured on an equivalent scale?  Most theorists in criminology have resorted to a cognitive solution at the expense of affect and emotion which are wrongfully perceived as nonrational components.  What is lacking in this approach is adequate treatment of emotion, the reasons why people would not seek their best advantage.  It has little to do with satiation effects and more to do with the action propensities of emotion.  A theory of general and specific emotion is lacking, although some scholars regard fear, hate, happiness, and sadness as primary and cross-cultural.  Others call socially constructed feelings as "sentiments," but the point is I don't believe we should water down the importance of emotions.  The empirical problem is how primary emotions link with ideas in evaluations, expectations, beliefs, and motivations, which in psychology is referred to as the attitude-belief controversy.  Integrated criminology should be sensitive to these links since they are precisely the methods people use to cope with an overwhelming, complex number of objects and mutual incommensurability.  The more neutral emotions, in particular, need investigation.

    There is a need for something called futurist criminology, which is similar, but not quite the same as newsmaking criminology.  It is a fact that old myths are frequently replaced by new myths. But it is also a fact that sophisticated criminals will use criminological theory as excuses for misbehavior.  Rather than being behind them as a think tank for development of their motivational systems, it is preferable to be one step ahead, and incorporate "criminological vision" into our theories.  A "criminological vision" is not incompatible with efforts toward a more egalitarian society nor with a critique of political economy.  All criminologists wish for a restructuring of the competitive environment so that no human life is diminished.  A futurist criminology might include what critical criminologists have for years said about the "politicization" of criminality.  The nexus between criminologists and criminals deserves reconsideration.  Criminals already have a futurist criminology.  Criminologists need to be studying iconoclastic crime, or alienated, symbolic acts so diffuse in their methods that they defy explanation.  Old theories are frequently overtaken by the rush of history.  Today, law is not so much violated as ignored.  Theories that do not yet exist can be brought into reality if integrated criminology includes a futurist component by extrapolating scenarios about criminal behavior that has not yet happened.  This is the realm of comparative criminology, and it is perhaps the most difficult area to integrate because of culture-boundness.  The hard work today is not the search for master trends, but the delineation of different paths, nonexistent at present, that different peoples can possibly take with different forms of capitalist, continental, Islamic, and broken-up socialist law.  What may be needed is a law and personality approach in criminology.

Feminist Majority Foundation (Feminist.net)

A Feminist Perspective on Women & Crime


IGC Women'sNet

Ken Mentor's Feminist Criminology Page

Meda Chesney-Lind's Home Page

National Organization for Women

Paul's Justice Page on Integrating Criminologies by Gregg Barak
Rutger's Center for American Women & Politics

Sociological Theories of Deviance

Third WWWave

Tulane's Feminist Theory Page

U.S. Dept. of Justice study on Female Offenders (pdf)

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Last updated: Nov 30, 2006
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