The Low Rate of Offending by Asian Girls: Exploring the Interaction by Gender and Ethnicity

David Butterworth, University of Cambridge

In his review of ethnic origins, crime and criminal justice in England & Wales, Smith (1997) contrasts the higher rate of offending amongst Afro-Caribbeans with a lower rate for South Asians and speculates that the differences may be due to the more protective 'survival strategies' adopted by the Asian group following migration. This paper reports findings from a recent self-report study of the involvement in crime of all 14-15 year olds (n=1957) in state schools in a medium-sized UK city and examines the role of structural characteristics (specifically ethnicity and gender) in explaining the overall lower rate of Asian offending. This lower rate was found to disguise an interaction effect between ethnicity and gender with the lower rates of Asian offending being the result of the far lower rate of offending by Asian females. A number of individual characteristics (e.g. Family & School Bonds, Self-Control, Shaming) were used to create a combined offending Risk-Protective score and it was found that Asian females displayed significantly more protective characteristics than Asian males. It is therefore suggested that the view of 'Asian culture' as providing a general 'Protective Factor' needs to be modified to address the gender imbalance in the nature of this 'Protection.'

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Updated 05/20/2006